Annual Meeting 2020

Dear Fellow Senior College Members,

Annual Meeting via Zoom Teleconferencing

Please be advised we will hold our meeting on Thursday, September 24 at 12pm. If you plan to attend the meeting you must register with the form below, where you can also renew your membership. Remember also you must be a current member to attend and vote so be sure to renew your membership.

Members will be asked to vote on the following six candidates for the 2020-2021 Board of Trustees:

  • Al Arthur: Website design and management focused on Arts, Education, Culture, and Community.
  • John Economy: Management, incumbent SC board member, co-chair of SC annual appeal, and member of SC Festival of Art committee.
  • Deirdre Good: (Online)Teacher & Educator, avid reader, author, & Curriculum Committee member.
  • Brenda Smith: CPA, Non-profit financial management. SC Board member and Treasurer
  • Beth Sterner: Business Owner/Accountant, Community Volunteer, avid life long learner.
  • Jim Owen: Consultant & counselor and member SV Finance Committee

Agenda

Download 2020 Agenda

Download 2020 Annual Meeting Minutes


Click here to register

2020 Annual Meeting
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Fall Online Classes/Membership Renewal Time:

Recently you received notice that Senior College at Belfast has just posted our fall line up of courses on the website. Registration is now open for the Fall Classes!

Although we cannot yet meet at the Hutchinson Center we have been able to move forward with online offerings. Through the perseverance and hard work of the Board of Trustees and the Curriculum Committee we are actually thriving. We offered a number of free online courses this summer to determine our capabilities to produce online courses. They were extremely well received. Most were completely filled with waiting lists and those without class limits had over 100 participants. We were able to bring classes to nursing homes and other living centers – an endeavor that we will build on as we go forward. In short, we proved that online courses can be fun as well as educational and intellectually satisfying.

Our membership year begins on September 1. This year it is more important than ever that we have a successful membership drive. With the online class offerings we have reduced all our course fees, but there are still ongoing expenses which must be covered. We hope you will sign up for a course but even if you don’t, please renew your membership. Now more than ever we need to assure that our Senior College will continue to serve, grow, and remain vital in our community.

In closing, thank you for being a part of this remarkable organization.

Sincerely,

Peter Reilly

Fall 2020 Classes are Here!

While we all continue to deal with the ongoing issues of life during a pandemic we are happy to announce that thanks to the ingenuity and enthusiasm of our Instructors we will be offering a full fall curriculum. The curriculum is currently posted here.

The Curriculum Committee with the assistance of Al Arthur, our Webmaster, several longtime Instructors, and assistance from the Maine Senior College Network at USM we have become increasingly proficient with Zoom technology. We believe that each of you will find a Fall course that will pique your interest and introduce you to the joy of online learning if you have not yet experienced it. While nothing will replace the camaraderie and fellowship we experienced with coffee, tea, and cookies at the Hutchinson Center we strongly believe you will find a great deal that inspires you during the next few months at Online Senior College Belfast!

We assure you that as soon as we know it is safe we will be back at the Hutch.

If you already know what classes you want, click here for the registration page.

New History Course Available: Epidemics in American History

Senior College Members:

Here’s something you might be interested in. As you may or may not know the University of Maine has tuition waivers for seniors who take courses through the Hutchinson Center. Following is a course (with obvious relevance!) that is being taught online through the Hutchinson Center. The course is taught once a week from August 31st till December 11th. Contact Kim Wilson-Raymond at the Hutchinson Center for more details and enrollment. kim.raymond@maine.edu.

New History Course – Epidemics in American History

Patrick Callaway
Meet Patrick Callaway, course instructor for History 199: Epidemics in American History. Fun fact about Patrick: he’s a big fan of classical movies and has been known to quote them at random. (You’ve been warned!)

This class examines the role of epidemic disease in American history. Epidemics are complex times of individual human tragedy intersecting with the potential for rapid structural change due to the emergency. The new circumstances provide opportunities for social, cultural, and political action as society changes (or fails to change) as a result. This class uses a variety of case studies from American history to explore the personal and collective understandings of disease, responses to epidemics, the influences of race and class on the lived experience during epidemics, and the political, social, and economic consequences of public health crises.

Becoming Belfast, Maine 1770 – 1820


Belfast historian Megan Pinette will be presenting a free brown bag lunch series session on August 17, 12 noon. via Zoom

In 2020 the State of Maine celebrates 200 years of statehood, 1820 – 2020. This year Belfast also commemorates its own milestone – Founders Day, 250 years since the first settlements, 1770 – 2020. Belfast was settled by Scots-Irish families from Londonderry, New Hampshire in the spring of 1770. The first settlers, about thirty people including children, took possession of their lands on both sides of the harbor. In early 1819, the question about separation was brought to the towns. In Belfast, the vote was 145 in favor and 26 against. Belfast was well-established as both a maritime and market town when the break from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the creation of the state of Maine occurred on March 15, 1820. This illustrated talk will include a look at early Belfast people, businesses, residences and industries.

Time 30-40 minutes, 12pm Monday, August 17, Free

Click Here to register

Megan Pinette is president of the Belfast Historical Society and Museum and also serves as the Education Program Coordinator. She has been active with the historical society for the past twenty years, and has worked on such projects as “The History of Belfast in the 20th Century,” co-authored by Jay Davis and Tim Hughes, and “The Museum in the Streets,” thirty interpretive panels set along the waterfront, downtown and residential streets. She is the co-author of Arcadia Publishing Company’s, Images of America-Belfast book, published in June 2020.

Fall in Love with Fall 2020

August 11, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

As we begin another year of Senior College, under most unusual circumstances, we invite you to join us to meet Instructors of online fall classes. Each will briefly describe their class and offer a taste of the exciting, educational, fun, and mind-expanding opportunities available from the comfort of your home. We will miss the Hutchinson Center, the camaraderie, the animated classes, and of course cookies and coffee but we promise that you will find online learning can be satisfying and stimulating as well.

To register, simply fill out the form below. This session is free, and all are welcome!

Registration is closed.


Fall in Love with Fall 2020

Course Registration

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Cancellation Notice: Fall On-Campus Classes

Given today’s environment and the vulnerability of our demographics the Board of Directors has made the decision to cancel all Fall Senior College “on campus” classes at the Hutchinson Center.

There will be a full slate of online courses for the fall.

We will have more information coming to you about fall courses, but in the meantime we wish all of you a safe summer. Take care.

Free Special Virtual Zoom Class for July

JULY 8th and JULY 22nd 4pm – ONLINE

Spend an hour each with Winston Churchill and Alexander Hamilton – a Free online course given by Belfast’s Senior College with Instructor Pete Reilly. In the summer there is no age requirement so anyone can join. 2 Day course/1 hour+ each session.

So crank your computer up, grab your favorite beverage and have some fun.

Check out the virtual Zoom classes.

Belfast Senior College Featured in Maine Seniors Magazine

The Belfast Senior College has been featured in a lovely three page article by Shelagh Talbot in the April issue of Maine Seniors Magazine with lots of photos courtesy of Belfast Senior College. Pick up the latest issue at your newstand or download the article as a PDF.

Waldo County is beautiful – a coastal area with much to do and enjoy, and for almost 20 years Belfast Senior College has been a vibrant part of that landscape. The college was created in 2001 by a group of Belfast-area residents and leaders along with Dr. Jim Patterson, director of the newly opened Hutchinson Center-part of the University of Maine system. This center was built with the idea of creating outreach for the university and “serving as an educational and cultural hub for the mid-coast community,” according to their website. Belfast Senior College is a perfect fit.

Virtual Zoom Classes

Dear Senior College friends,

While Senior College still hopes to offer “in person” classes in September, we realize this might not be possible or prudent. In this case, we will offer a variety of online classes through Zoom. If you are new to Zoom please be assured it is easy to use and will give us the opportunity to connect with one another in a new way.

In order to prepare for a possible “Online Fall” we have scheduled several online classes in the next few months using Zoom, including a Zoom training course on June 2.

We’re sorry, but all current Zoom courses are full. However, it is possible to put your name on a waiting list. To put your name on a waiting list, fill out the registration form and let us know in the comments section what class you are interested in.

Check out the virtual Zoom classes.

E-News May 2020

All Senior College summer “bricks and mortar” classes are cancelled this year. Please look for several online classes on the website in the near future. We hope to start “Zooming.”

The Senior College Board is meeting, and social distancing, using “Zoom,” a videoconferencing app. This was taken at the April, 2020 board meeting.

On the Job!

Members of the Senior College board at their April meeting, using “Zoom,” a video conferencing tool.


Dear Member:

Sometimes one writes a Newsletter to stay in touch; sometimes one writes a Newsletter to just say Hi; sometimes one writes a Newsletter to announce new opportunities; sometimes one writes a Newsletter to announce a tweak in how things are done – and sometimes a Newsletter does all those things. This is one of those Newsletters.

In the past few weeks your Board of Trustees has met many times to discuss and plan how our Senior College could best serve our members during this historic, stressful and opportunity filled time. We discussed – what do our members need, what should we do and what can we do. Many topics and paths were explored and are still being explored, but in the end it comes down to working within the confines of our mission and our resources. Fortunately, we do have many resources to draw on. Most notably our vibrant membership and a raft of dedicated and talented instructors.

There have been many questions raised about cancellations. Here’s the status so far:

  • 2020 SPRING SEMESTER – ALL IN PERSON COURSES CANCELLED
  • ONLINE COURSES ARE IN THE WORKS
  • 2020 SUMMER SEMESTER – IN PERSON COURSES CANCELLED
  • ONLINE COURSES ARE IN THE WORKS
  • 2020 FALL SEMESTER – NO CANCELLATION SO FAR, BUT THE SITUATION IS REVIEWED DAILY.

Note: We really had no choice with these decisions as the Hutchinson Center has closed.

We should say here that all our decisions (to cancel or not) will be made with the utmost concern for the health and welfare of our members. Senior College will continue to thrive, and to expand, and to enrich our lives long after a few cancellations.

Above, I mentioned that despite the stress of this time, it is also an opportunity filled time. Your board has set a course whereby Senior College will continue to offer courses, but in a different format. We’re going to save you some gas money! As you read this, Senior College instructors are being trained to teach courses via Zoom Technology broadcast directly to your home. We are more than pleased to tell you that we have worked with the University of Maine and the Hutchinson Center to provide training and support for us to deliver our courses.

Soon you will receive an announcement of online courses to be offered later this Spring. There will be a learning curve, and we will start with low numbers of attendees so any kinks can be worked out, but this will work. In another part of this Newsletter Nancy Perkins, our Chair of Curriculum, will have more details for you. Nancy has put in many, many hours to get this project running and her dedication is paying off.

What Senior College online courses can provide is interaction between you, the teacher and your fellow classmates. Talk to each other, meet new friends – ask “How are you doing?” Get the instructor off topic like you used to do in school! It can be fun! Try it once and you’ll be hooked! Further along these lines are discussions which recognize this new method of delivering courses will help us bring our courses to people that may not be able to come to the Hutch – those in nursing homes, assisted living centers, etc.

In closing I have to thank our Board of Trustees, staff and everyone associated with the college who are contributing and serving in these troubled times. Without wonderful, dedicated people we would not have a Senior College. In the meantime – wash your hands, stay safe and take care.

Peter Reilly


The first Zoom meeting of the Curriculum Committee since the obligatory shut down was well attended. After an initial discussion we determined that the Committee will move forward with two major objectives for the Fall Session: Creating a curriculum based on a return to regularly held classes at the Hutchinson Center, and considering the possibility that we must plan for online classes in case we cannot hold “brick and mortar” classes. (Note: Nine our Spring Session Instructors indicated that they could teach the announced Spring Course at the Hutchinson Center in the Fall).

We are recommending that we begin as soon as possible to offer online classes using Zoom and that we attempt to schedule training for Instructors. Our first foray into online instruction should be gratis and open to all Senior College members in the state with a limited number of class registrations. However, it was recommended that future classes should have a fee attached to be determined by the Finance Committee. It was also a recommendation that courses offered during the summer be abbreviated ones not lasting more than an hour or two at the most.

Following the approval of the Board of Directors that we move forward with this initiative, a Zoom training session was scheduled with Staff of the Hutchinson Center. Twenty-five potential Instructors registered for the course. Short training films were emailed to participants and these can be found on our website. I highly recommend you take a look at them before joining a Zoom class. They are short, to the point, extremely helpful, and demonstrate how easily one can learn to use Zoom.

In addition, look for several online classes on the website in the near future so we can all start “Zooming.” But remember you will have to bring your own cookie and drink!

Nancy Perkins, Chair

April 2020 Board Meeting via Zoom

The Senior College Board is meeting, and social distancing, using “Zoom,” a videoconferencing app. This was taken at the April, 2020 board meeting.

Corona Chronicles Common Ground Fair Edition

Going to the Fair ~ But Not This Year
Photos, Sketches & Text by Rita Swidrowski, Belfast
September 2020

Introduction
I know a friend who can’t make her annual pilgrimage to a beloved place this fall.
Instead she’s sharing photos and memories of her past trips. I like this idea.

The Common Ground Country Fair is my annual pilgrimage. I go to join in the celebration of the harvest season, of community and cooperative sharing, of living in harmony with nature, of caring for the the earth and for one another. All with joy, artistry, respect, and, well… Love. Good things to have in these times. I go to rejoice in the midst of September’s vivid color, light and energy before the gray of winter sets in.

I will miss the Common Ground Fair in Unity. I can only imagine what it’s like for the participants and organizers. At least there will be a Common Ground Fair to attend online and we can still support the farmers and artisans who work so hard all year.

The Fair

I love the farm animals, including the favorites from my childhood County Fairs ~ The Horses. The Fair of my childhood was my city girl connection to country life. Even though it was modern & honky tonk in some ways, I adored it. All year I had the same anticipation I now have for the Common Ground.

There are teaching workshops, and demonstrations of old fashioned,
sustainable tools and crafts. Young people are learning and passing on ways and traditions of past generations.

So many stalls, booths and tents with produce
and handmade, homemade natural products and crafts!

And Food! The variety of healthy, local food delights me! The cotton candy of my childhood fair is replaced by Tacos, Fiddlehead-stuffed Ravioli & carrot juice!

Musicians, on stages and off, country dances, wandering minstrels…
Parades in which fair goers and bicycles participate!

Sketching at the Fair

Over the years, my steady companion at the Fair has been a small sketchbook in which I make quick visual and written notes.

One time I was sketching the little Popcorn House
when the Popcorn Lady popped out to photo my sketch!
A great pleasure: Sketching while listening to live music!

Adapting

There is no Common Ground Fair this year.
But my sketchbook and I have been safely finding September joy
in some beautiful local gardens.
And next year we will appreciate the Fair more than ever!

Rita Swidrowski sketches, journals, teaches and lives in Belfast. You can visit her blog, Sketchbook Wandering http://www.sketchbook-wandering.blogspot.com/

Corona Chronicles Poetry: September 10, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.


May you go Gentle
Barbara Klie

Over ten years ago I took a Senior College poetry course with Ellie O’Leary, meant for students who wanted to learn to better appreciate poetry. It was one of the courses I’ve taken at Senior College to stretch myself. As with several of the stretch-myself courses I’ve taken, it was one of my favorites. One suggested assignment Ellie gave was that we write a form of poem called a villanelle. My computer defines a villanelle as “a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain.” I’m sure Ellie explained it in a way that I understood better than I understand this definition! She had told us the Dylan Thomas’ poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was an example of a villanelle. His poem has always disturbed me, so I cheated a bit and did not write an original villanelle, but altered his to suit my wish for how we all go into that good night. Here is my version.

May you go gentle into that good night,
Old age should bow and bend at end of day;
Rage not against the dying of the light.

Wise women at their end, know rest is right
They’ve had their chance to voice their final say
May they go gentle into that good night.

Mensch, at last farewell, recall how bright
Their simple helpful deeds had shone. May they
Rage not against the dying of the light.

Dear friend, the time to part is now in sight
Your seasons have turned, you can no longer stay
May you go gentle into that good night
Rage not against the dying of the light.

Barbara is a former member of the Senior College Board. Currently, she is a very active member of the Curriculum Committee where she serves as secretary. She has also chaired the Brown Bag Lunch program for several years.


Watson Gets His Needs Met
Jim Owen

I thought folks might like this poem. There are many dog owners in this town who love their dogs and some walk them by my house. I don’t often write about pets, but this dog is special, particularly in a time of a pandemic, social distancing, and a physical affection drought.

Watson is an English Springer Spaniel,
he lives next door,
a mid-sized dog, way too big for a lap,
long droopy ears, big expressive eyes,
a large nose and mouth to match,
short cropped hair in white, brown and tan,
on a walk, free of his leash
he ranges about with speed and surprising grace
nose scanning his surroundings like radar.

Watson is an extrovert
loves being around people,
a constant presence,
always alert to his family and their company.
whether he is lying, sitting or moving about.
Watson is a living argument
in favor of dogs,
he is funny,
he sings along whenever his owner
practices her violin.

He is responsive,
when told not to eat appetizers,
his legs overcome his desire.
He is protective,
alway ready to guard the front door,
even when firecrackers go off
several blocks away.
Like a cowboy sidekick,
in a TV western,
his soulful glances provide comic relief
whenever distraction is needed.

Unlike the cats I have lived with,
Watson longs for
pats, scratches, gentle stroking,
and comes back for more,
again and again,
anybody will do.
His big eyes, droopy eyelids
lead the way,
a deafening silent request for love,
and he thrives,
we should all be touched
as often as Watson is.

Jim Owen is inspired by the poetry of Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco, E.B. White, Japanese Haiku and many others. A member of The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry in Belfast, Jim’s poems have been published in the Foreign Service Journal, several online journals, the Maine Island Trail Association’s Tales of the Trail blog, and a booklet published by The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry. One of his pandemic poems is on the front door of the Belfast Free Library. A member of the Board of Directors of Senior College Belfast, Jim was regional manager and counselor for an Employee Assistance Program based in Maine.


Poem
Tycelia Santoro

Lounging on the patio
I await the concert.
It begins: high pitched calls
followed by a tumble of trills,
pierce the air
again and again.

Sometimes the soloist
at the top of the highest tree
is joined for a duet.

Summer with the cardinals.

Autumn brings quieter times.

Hope for flashes of red among
the winter trees.

Hope for encores –

I take pleasure from the natural beauty of my surroundings, the scenic pleasures of our state, and the joy of my animal companion, a 12 pound terrier named Beanie (so named by his Louisiana rescue shelter for his pinto bean shaped markings). I find myself more attuned to changes in the weather and the world around me. I have watched spiders spin, chipmunks scurry, birds fly, and my dog sleep. I have listened to sounds of the night and the silent beginning of the day. I have marveled at both the rising and setting of the sun. The moon has brought serenity and peace most nights and I fall asleep with anticipation of the day to come.

Is this what we call making lemonade from lemons?

Corona Chronicles: Animal Stories

Jack and Charlie
Barb Rehmeyer

Jackson arrived first in 2006. He liked to “sing” under the window, especially in the evening, in hopes to come inside. Because he liked to sing, I named him after one of my favorite singers – Jackson Brown. He was an orange tabby cat and had two triangles above his eyes much like a jack-o-lantern. Hence the name seemed to fit. We thought he was about a year old. I hung up a “Lost Cat” sign at the local shop, but I never heard from anyone.

Jackson was very affectionate. He was always eager to be petted and belly-rubbed and enjoyed sitting on any available lap. Sometimes this was a nuisance because he liked being as close as possible, crawling in-between my knitting or sitting on the book I was reading. Jack loved attention and loved being part of our family.

Charlie arrived in 2010. He was a real goofball! One of his favorite places to sleep was the bathroom sink, which can be quite shocking in the middle of the night. I often felt Charlie was part dog because he behaved more like a dog than a cat. He followed me around everywhere. I’d go to the garden and Charlie was there. I’d go to the bathroom and Charlie followed. Whenever I arrived home, Charlie showed up to greet me and follow me in the house.

Charlie grew to be a pretty massive cat, outweighing the other cats by about five pounds. But he was a lover not a fighter, friendly to everybody including the grandchildren. The other cats disappeared when the kids showed up. Not Charlie! He would let them pat him and pull his tail and never tried to scratch them. “Charlie” was one of my granddaughter’s first words. I’ll never forget the rapture on her two-year-old face the day Charlie walked between her legs while she was standing in the yard. Charlie had the most intense green eyes.

One morning in the fall of 2016, Charlie didn’t show up for breakfast, which was very unusual. We looked for him and called for him, but we never found him. Remember I said Charlie followed me everywhere? So his presence was greatly missed.

Jackson disappeared on May 31, 2018. It was a Thursday and I went to work at the library around 9:00 a.m. Jack was sleeping on the bed in the screen porch so I propped the screen door open with a rock so that he could get out if he wanted. That was the last time I saw him. My husband died in January of 2018 and Jackson was a great comfort during the months of grief afterwards. He sat in my lap and slept beside me in bed. I missed him greatly. I still miss him.

So that’s the story of my two friends. I don’t know where they came from, and I don’t know where they went. But I am grateful that they were part of my life.

Barb Rehmeyer lives in Liberty and is the director of the Liberty Library. She has three grown children and five grandchildren.

Jack and Charlie


My Elegant Beast
Kristin Frangoulis

I have a lights-out lover.
He creeps nightly to my bed.
He will lounge and will hover,
As his paws caress my head.
He will strut across my heart,
As if it was a pillow,
Purring from the very start,
Acting rather mellow.
A muffler his body makes,
And his cheek lies on my face.
We sleep until the dawn breaks,
Then a morning pose he makes.
He dreams of what next to kill,
As he stalks the window sill.

Kristin Frangoulis writes and paints in Belfast. She lives with her husband, George and several cats. She also hosts WBFY radio show, “Poetry By The Bay,” and co-hosts the TV show, “Good Morning Belfast” with her husband.


Conversations with Stinky
Brenda Smith

“How’s the weather out there this morning Stinky?” I inquire with a gravelly voice, unused since last speaking to it some eight hours ago. It stares at me. Stinky is still there, at eye level, clinging to the screen door leading out to my deck. This morning puffy white clouds with flat blue bottoms form a backdrop for my companion.

I know it’s not nice to call something stinky unless it is an over ripe block of limburger cheese. It would be nice to know if Stinky is a her or a him so I could affix a gender appropriate name to it. For now, Stinky will have to suffice as a nickname for the prehistoric looking creature it is – a brown marmorated stinkbug.

He clings on to the screen longingly desirous of the warmth and brightness inside my apartment. Out there the nights are growing longer and colder. “I’m sorry Stinky, Covid-19 update #24 of Penobscot Shores states in bold letters, ‘Outside visitors are not permitted inside the Ocean House. Only masked people who reside in the apartments are allowed inside.” No exceptions!”

Stinky is persistent though and has not abandoned its perch for over a week now. I say “goodnight and stay safe” to Stinky when I turn off the living room light at night. When I reappear in the morning I find Stinky has scooched a few inches to one side or the other and perhaps a tad up or down.

2020, this bizarre year of the pandemic, has left me feeling more isolated and lonely than ever before. Our lives have been turned upside down, unable to see or spend time with our friends or family except via a virtual world called Zoom. I so miss the smiles hidden under masks that conceal our faces from the bridge of our noses to under our chins. I find myself questioning whether I am actually going deaf or whether speech is garbled just enough that I strain to understand what is being said to me by the few other masked people I might encounter in a week.

Is it no wonder then, that a maskless six legged, two antennaed, inch and a quarter long insect who refuses to leave me alone, should become my unlikely confidant. As a conversationalist Stinky doesn’t have much to say, but I couldn’t dream of finding a better listener.

Every morning I tell Stinky about how many new cases of the virus have been reported. “Stinky, this virus is spreading and breaking records every day. Today it’s up to 243 cases. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to go to Hannaford’s where some people “prefer” not to wear masks. Do you think I should keep my Physical Therapy appointments Stinky? Who knows how many other babies my therapist’s baby has been around in daycare and for each of those babies how many family members were they exposed to? And how many other people were each of those family members exposed to?”

Stinky doesn’t get too excited when I begin to grow hysterical. That in turn has a reciprocal calming effect on me. We are slowly building some trust in each other as we both hunker in place. By now, Stinky knows I will not hurt it. It will not have to squirt its smelly defensive liquid to repel me. By Googling its species I know Stinky will not bite, sting or cause me or my house any damage. That’s the sort of apartment mate I can tolerate.

We both have hard lives right now. While I plot ways not to become infected with Covid-19, Stinky is worried about finding shelter and food to survive just a while longer. It’s a matter of life or death for both of us. I am worried about the predicted weather change tonight. The forecast is for heavy rain and 45 mile per hour winds.

It takes strength and endurance for Stinky to stay attached to the screen for days on end, but I’m worried about how my bug buddy will cope with gusts tonight strong enough to topple some power lines. When I warned him of the impending storm Stinky was speechless! “If you need to find a more secure place to hang out than on my screen door, I‘ll understand. You’ve gotta do, what you’ve gotta do. You should find a crack and take shelter while you can.”

The weather guessers got it right this time. Overnight the rain pelted viciously and the wind wailed furiously. I prayed that Stinky would find a hideaway because its diminutive quarter ounce of weight would be defenseless against the storm’s force.

In the morning, from the hallway I could see there was no longer a tiny body attached to the screen door. I felt a tinge of grief as I realized that Stinky was gone. I imagined that a great gust of wind had swept Stinky into the air taking it aloft on a magical carpet ride to some magical destination. How could I have gotten so attached to a little bug?

I walked to the door to gaze out over the bay, admiring the view that starts my every day. I was startled by what I saw. Tucked behind the door’s side panel, still clinging to the screen was Stinky. I let out a whoop of joy. “Stinky you made it! How did you do it?” I was amazed and elated. “Well little buddy this is going to be one great day!”

I pondered the miracle of Stinky’s survival and felt humbled by what Stinky must have endured. Clearly there was a lesson in it for me. In these pandemic darkened days when life’s routine has been thrown askew, the audacity of this tiny creature to survive a raging tempest gives me inspiration and hope. I know I must cling to the promise there will be a day when I no longer fear Covid-19, just as tightly as Stinky clung to my screen door. For now, we have each other.

Brenda Smith fulfilled a life-long dream when she moved to Belfast in 2019. An accounting graduate of Bentley University, she worked as a CPA and Vice President of Finance for several non-profit organizations. She earned her MS from Suffolk University in Philanthropy and Media and has produced, directed and edited many award winning videos. She is most proud of the coveted “Telly” award on her desk. Now retired, she is busy with several writing projects: an early memoir recounting some of her hair-raising global adventures, a later memoir about living with the extremely rare Stiff Person’s syndrome, and writing short essays about things in life that make her smile. She is a board member and treasurer of Belfast Senior College.


Sweet Memories
Yvette Reid

When my son Adam was around a year old, we had a long-haired dachshund named Dickens and a wire-haired dachshund named Reveille. Every day Adam and the dogs would stand at the storm door waiting for my husband to come home from teaching school.

Adam is now a high school teacher with a son of his own, and a much larger dog.

Yvette is a retired school librarian. The photos were taken when they lived in Connecticut, but they have lived on Islesboro for thirty plus years.


Al’s Sonnet
Kristin Frangoulis

He knocks at the door and asks to come in.
He nurtures us all, especially the small,
With a face that he sports with a smile or a grin.
He wears the same coat, summer, winter or fall.
A tweed kind of thing with ebony stripes,
Mixed up with black spots he tries to erase,
A lap of his tongue cleans his face with a swipe.
He moves with a lope, a lion’s smooth grace.
And bathes every night in a claw footed tub.
He falls into bed with a grunt and a sigh,
Too tired to yowl and carouse at the pub.
He purrs us to sleep with a sweet lull-a-bye.
Some call him a cat, but we call him Pal,
Our shadow and friend, our Sweet Baby Al.


Dog Love
Nancy Perkins

My lifelong love affair with dogs began when I met my first pet, a silky, caramel colored cocker spaniel named Taffy. Taffy had been my Daddy’s dog long before I was born and as a toddler there are countless black and white photographs of me with Taffy. As an only child for nearly five years Taffy was my constant playmate and confidant. I clearly remember Daddy breaking the news to me that Taffy had become ill and had died. None of the modern day euphemisms were employed. Taffy died just like I would some day. I learned early that all living things die but as a five year old it didn’t really register.

For my 12th birthday I was given a beautiful black and white English Spaniel whom my mother insisted be called Peter. All of my adolescent angst was shared with Peter who slept by my side. I lost my best friend when he was killed by a driver who used our driveway as a quick turnaround. I was disconsolate and mourned Peter for years. His was the first death of a living being to whom I had been close that I experienced. It marked a new phase of my life. I had loved him dearly and had lost him, a pattern we all learn sooner or later.

Our family welcomed another dog and I grew up and left home for college. I missed the family dog. But soon I was married and from that point on I always had a dog. There was a collection of 4-legged friends over the years who were part of our family: Tory, Abner, Zack, Sophie, and finally a beautiful black lab born in a shelter in Beaufort, South Carolina. My son named him Beaufort but he became Beaufie to me. He was a perceptive, loving companion and was at my side following the death of my husband. He helped me during those dark days but sadly Beaufie died at age 13 and I felt totally and completely alone with children grown and on their own. I had grieved so greatly upon losing my special friend that I swore I could not bear losing another dog and vowed never to adopt again.
Several years later I remarried. My new husband owned a handsome cat named Otis. Soon after we retired and moved to Maine. It wasn’t really home to me for a long time and I often considered returning to Virginia. One day my husband suggested that we adopt a dog. I fell in love at first sight with a diminutive mixed terrier, from Louisiana, named Pinto Bean. Even Otis welcomed the new member of our family. Sadly not long after Otis died.

Beanie was a lively and enchanting pet. He went everywhere with us, ate his home cooked meals with us, and inserted his 12 pound body between the two of us every night. We envisioned many happy years and adventures with Beanie but it was not to be. He died in early October of this year, in our arms. He was somewhere between 13 and 16 years old. I still see him at times and feel his cold black nose on my face. I still cry when I think of my Bean and his faithful presence. I have to remind myself that we gave Beanie a wonderful home and a happy life in Belfast. He had dog friends, people friends, and a family who loved him. He gave us so much more than we gave him, he brought joy and happiness to us. While I may have saved him he really saved me and like all the dogs I have owned taught me important life lessons. A dog can teach an old girl new tricks. Soon it may be time to welcome another dog into my life to both learn from and love.

Nancy relocated to Belfast from Virginia five years ago after a career as a nonprofit fundraiser and agency director coupled with political activism. A member of St. Margaret’s Church, the Belfast Garden Club, and the board of Waterfall Arts, Nancy is particularly happy to be part of Senior College Belfast.


Chaos and Cats
Kristin Frangoulis

I swim in a sea of cartons.

Our belongings all packed up,
Mountaineer Organic Chickens,
Northland Apples fresh from the truck.
That’s what the labels announce.
Their contents are mysteries to find.
Six cats on top of them pounce:
Black Panther, one of a kind,
Four tabbies, a mother and kittens,
Fat gray who growls and hisses.
Whatever I need is hidden.
I step on tuna in dishes.
I lament my loss of home,
And wish I could find my comb.


The Optimist and the Pessimist
Paul Sheridan

A child psychologist had twin boys—one was an optimist; the other, a pessimist. Just to see what would happen, on Christmas Eve she loaded the pessimist’s room with toys and games. In the optimist’s room, she dumped a pile of horse droppings.

In the morning, she found the pessimist surrounded by gifts, crying.
“What’s wrong?” the mother asked. “I have a ton of game manuals to read … I need batteries … and my toys will all eventually get broken!” sobbed the pessimist.

Passing the optimist’s room, the mother found him dancing for joy around the pile of droppings. “Why are you so happy?” she asked.
The optimist shouted, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Paul Sheridan has taught courses for Senior College on films, photography, and safe driving. He and his wife! Karen Gleason, are film buffs and live in Northport.

Corona Chronicles: Story Edition

Corona Chronicles Story Edition

Stories from “The Story of Story” class

A six-week Winterim class drew to its conclusion on February 12th. Brenda Smith had seven eager participants who joined her on a journey of writing exploration. Together they learned how the brain processes sensory and emotional content through a complex neural network. Through the use of neural triggers in their writing they learned how to write stories that will remain memorable to their readers either by recreating a shared experience or by simulating new experiences described by the writer.

Each participant wrote and delivered a short story in the final class. As a group we laughed, cried and learned from each other’s stories. We zipped ourselves into the skins of both real and invented characters and stared into their souls, shared their hopes and worries and each of us emerged a changed person. Several of the class participants have agreed to share their stories with the Corona Chronicle readers and we hope you enjoy them as much as we did. Look for this class to be repeated in the future.


The Letter
Nancy Perkins

Ida boarded the train in Richmond with the letter in her pocket. With her small suitcase, and a few dollars in her purse, she was determined to discover a secret that she had never known about until she had read the letter.

She had found the letter in her mother’s dresser among a stack of letters tied with a faded ribbon as she packed up her parent’s belongings following their sudden deaths in a car crash. The letter, addressed to her mother, was postmarked Big Island, Virginia, December, 1918. As she opened the letter and began reading a chill came over her, she felt weak, light headed and as if the world was crashing around her. The letter was written by a woman thanking her mother for adopting her infant girl to raise as her own. Ida had never known that her mother and father were in fact not her real parents. The letter was signed by a woman named Mary Jane and dated not long after Ida’s birthdate. She carefully folded the pale blue paper and returned it to the envelope.
As the conductor called “Lynchburg” Ida knew it was not much longer until they reached her destination. It was beginning to get dark as the train pulled out of the station. The tracks followed the river towards the mountains on the horizon. Out the window Ida could see the dark river and in the distance she spotted what appeared to be a huge riverboat. As the train moved closer she realized she was looking at the paper mill in the distance. Ida knew a bit about the small community of Big Island in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. She had spent a day in the library reading about this small dot on the map of western Virginia. She learned that less than 200 people lived there and that many of them worked for the Pulp and Paper Company.

When the conductor announced “Big Island” Ida jumped up, put on her coat, and grabbed her suitcase from the overhead. As the conductor helped her down she thanked him turning to the lights of the small depot. Across the road she saw a large white frame structure, Cox’s Hotel.

As she crossed the road and walked up the Hotel steps she entered the small lobby. A small, elderly woman behind the desk welcomed her.

“My name is Ida Tunstall from Richmond and I wrote about a room.”

“Good evening, Ida, my you are a lot younger than I thought. I am Miss Jimmy Cox and this is my hotel. You are just in time for dinner. Here is your room key.

Ida found the small room warm and cozy. She checked her face in the mirror, quickly ran a comb through her auburn hair and washed the grime of the train off her hands at the small corner basin.

There were but three other people in the dining room, one couple and a single older man. A waitress greeted her, showed her to a table, took her order, and advised that her meal would be right out. Ida had never eaten alone in a restaurant. Her parents could barely afford to keep food on the table in 1937. Ida luckily had gotten a job at a department store shortly after graduating from high school but within two years she had been laid off.

Next morning over breakfast she asked the waitress if she knew of a Mary Jane living in Big Island. The waitress replied “Honey, I have only been here two years and I don’t know any Mary Jane. You need to ask Miss Jimmy. She knows everyone who ever lived here, lives here now, and probably anyone planning on moving here!”

Ida finished her breakfast and returned to the front desk.

“Miss Jimmy, I am looking for a woman named Mary Jane whom I believe was from Big Island.”

“Oh my goodness, Miss Tunstall, there have been several Mary Janes in Big Island. How old is the one you are looking for and why do you want to find her?”

“She was a friend of my mother’s years ago before the war. She would be about 45 or so today. My mother and father were killed this year and I just wanted to look her up.”

“You poor child, replied Miss Jimmy. “I am sure you will find your Mary Jane. Mary Jane Sadler married an engineer and they moved to Greensboro, NC 25 years ago. Mary Jane Goff still lives at home with her family but she is younger than you. Then there was Mary Jane Oliver whose father owned the mill, not the paper mill, the old grist mill down the road a quarter of a mile or so. The big white house on the hill across from there was the Oliver place. Mr. Oliver and his wife were lovely people but they both have passed on. They are buried up on Sunset Hill along with most everyone who ever lived in this place. You don’t want to miss going up there. It is close by and is the most magnificent view in all of this county. I have a plot right next to Mr. Cox and I will be happy to rest there for eternity. Now let’s see, Mr. Oliver’s daughter, Mary Jane was a beautiful girl. I know she moved to Richmond right after the war but came back when her parents passed away. You ought to talk to Will Buchanon who owns a little store right past the grist mill across the highway. He’ll be in the shop all day. He knew Mary Jane right well. Before he went off to France they were courting but nothing ever came of it. That’s what you should do, go up and see Mr. Buck, that’s what we call him round here. Just tell him I sent you.”

The October morning was cool in the mountains and walking out of the hotel Ida was glad she had worn her coat and hat. The early morning mist was beginning to burn off. The leaves had changed and the vista of the river and mountains looked as if posed for a postcard photo. Ida looked up the hill to the house at the top thinking that may be where her real mother grew up.

The road to the store was winding with no sidewalks. Leaves had fallen and formed a colorful path. Ahead she could see the historic grist mill that had been operated by the Oliver family for nearly 50 years. The mill race ran across the rocky field where Ida saw several brown cows. She passed a few houses and then ahead she saw the small shop located next to a stream that had gurgled by the side of the road as she walked from the hotel.

As she entered the small shop she was greeted by “May I help you?” A tall, middle-aged man, dressed neatly in a grey sweater with bow tie and suspenders adjusted his wire spectacles.

Ida was suddenly overcome with shyness and managed to say, “Yes, I would like one of those Hershey bars, the small ones.” As he handed her the candy she gave him her nickel. “Thank you,” she murmured, then turned and left the store.

Walking along the road that led to the cemetery Ida turned into the cemetery gates and realized she had been walking uphill since leaving the shop. Suddenly she felt worn out. Looking for a place to sit she saw a bench and headed right for it. Sitting down she looked toward the river down below her and across to a vista of mountains spreading toward the horizon. After a while Ida rose and walked around the small cemetery. She found the Oliver plot and the graves of Johnny and his parents. Nearby was a section of Buchanons as well as a number of Cox graves. Surprisingly, Ida couldn’t help feeling that she belonged with these people, these were her kinfolk, this was her home. But she quickly realized this was wishful thinking for she wanted so terribly to know she belonged somewhere.

Her walk back to the hotel took only a short while. Since leaving earlier she had circled the small village from the hotel to the shop, to the cemetery then back past the huge paper mill and on to the hotel. Ida returned to her room and lay down. She fell into a deep sleep and awakened to a dark room. The evening meal was quiet and uneventful.

The next morning Miss Jimmy called to her after breakfast.

“Well, Miss Tunstal, did you have any luck with Mr. Buck?”

“No, But I am going back today to talk to him.”

Ida, more determined than ever to learn if Mary Jane Oliver was the mother she was seeking, set off with shoulders squared to talk to Mr. Buck.

Arriving at the store, Mr. Buck greeted her with “Did you eat all of that chocolate bar, Miss?”

“I sure did and I want another one. But I also want to ask you about a woman I am looking for.” Suddenly Ida felt less reticent and the words came pouring out.

“I am visiting Big Island for a few days, staying down at Cox’s. Miss Jimmy mentioned that you might be able to help me. I am looking for a woman, who lived in Big Island during the war, named Mary Jane. She and my mama were close friends in Richmond. Both my parents were killed in an awful car wreck on the Washington Highway several months ago. I don’t recall having met Mary Jane but I want to meet her now that Mama and Daddy are gone. But I don’t know her full name. I think it is Mary Jane Oliver who grew up here in Big Island. But I am not sure.”

Mr. Buck looked at Ida and said “Why are you trying to find her?”

Ida, stared directly into his deep blue eyes and decided now was the time to be honest, “Because I think she may be my real mother! I was adopted, but when my adopted parents were killed I found out that I wasn’t their real child, I mean their flesh and blood child. Then I found a letter from Mary Jane written to my adopted mother from Big Island thanking her for taking me into her home and raising me as her own.”

Mr. Buck, surprised at Ida’s revelation, felt confused and managed to say “Oh, no, Miss, Mary Jane Oliver never had a child. She couldn’t be your mother. I have known Mary Jane since she was a little girl. Her older brother Johnny and I were the very best of friends until he was killed in the war. Mary Jane was two years younger than we were. Johnny and I did everything together usually with Mary Jane and my little sister tagging along. Soon after I finished school and was working in the Bank, Mary Jane and I found we were more than just friends. I realized I had loved her since we were children. We courted for nearly a year, talked of getting married, building a house but then the country entered the war overseas. Johnny and I were 21 and we were among the first registered to go in the army. In May 1918 we arrived in France. Leaving home was hard but it was so much harder wondering if I would see Mary Jane again.

Johnny was the first of our boys to die. We were together and fought together at Belleau Woods and then he was gone. I fought on but ended up being gassed at the Marne but by then it was nearly over. I was sent to a hospital in Nice where I spent a month recuperating in the Mediterranean sun. I couldn’t walk a block without having to sit down. My lungs were permanently damaged but the thought of seeing Mary Jane again kept me going,

The return home was bittersweet. Mama, Daddy, and Mary Jane met me at the station right here in Big Island on a warm day in March. I wanted to tell them then what I couldn’t tell them in my letters, that I was not whole and never would be. But they all were so happy to see me. I started working back at the bank and Mary Jane and I picked up where we left off. But I knew this was not going to work out and our dream would not come true. Every day the short walk to the bank became harder and harder. I accepted the fact that I couldn’t physically keep on. I felt that the only decent thing to do would be tell Mary Jane we couldn’t marry. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. We were sitting on the front porch at her house up on the hill when I told her we couldn’t be married. Mary Jane looked at me and said “Buck that doesn’t matter we will be fine right here in Big Island.” But my pride wouldn’t let me accept being less than a whole man. I left her there on the porch and walked home knowing that my life would never be the same.

Afterwards I heard Mary Jane had left Big Island and moved to Richmond. I never heard from her but her mama told me she had become a piano teacher and was doing well. I used to hear about her often from my sister who lived in Richmond but the only time I ever saw her was when she came back to Big Island for her mother’s and father’s funerals. I have always loved her and always will but I would have been a pretty poor excuse of a husband for a beautiful girl like Mary Jane.”

“Did she ever marry, Mr. Buchanan?” Ida asked.

“No, I don’t think she did,” his voice wavered and he felt confused and uncertain but said “Sometimes I think about what our lives would have been like if only we had married and had a family. I can’t believe what you are telling me for I know someone in Big Island would have told me if she had a baby. I have never heard this before. This is a small place and word would have gotten out. Don’t you see, Miss? This just isn’t right. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Buck knew that the minute this girl left the shop he would have to call his sister in Richmond to try and find out the truth about this story. If anybody knew it would be his sister Nellie. She would know the truth,

Ida thanked him and as she turned to leave Mr. Buchanan said “You never told me your name.”

“It’s Ida. Ida Tunstall.“

After scribbling it on a scrap of paper he thanked her and said “Ida, I have something for you.” He handed her a small brown bag. “A little something for your trip back home.”

Ida left the little shop confused and disappointed because she had hoped Mr. Buchanan would have at least given her Mary Jane’s address. But to think she lived in Richmond! Maybe I can find her when I get home. Ida refused to believe that this woman wasn’t her real mother. But who was her father? Listening to Mr. Buchanan’s story Ida wasn’t totally convinced he knew the truth or was telling the truth. Somehow or other she thought he just didn’t know what the real story was. Could Mary Jane have been pregnant when he and her brother shipped out for France? The only person who could answer that question was back in Richmond.

She opened the little bag Mr. Buchanon had handed her. It was filled with an assortment of penny candies. Smiling, she picked an orange slice and thought what a nice man he was as she bit down on the sugary sweet. Stopping at the depot on the way back to the hotel the station master told her she could get a train back to Richmond in about an hour arriving in the capital city at 7 pm.

Ida rushed back to the hotel, packed her bag, and stopped at the desk to thank Miss Jimmy and say goodbye.

“Good bye, dear,” Miss Jimmy called as she left, “sure hope you find what you are looking for.”

Ida’s mind raced the entire ride back. She just couldn’t get herself to admit she was wrong. She had to find Mary Jane. She just had to hear the truth from the woman herself, the woman who had written the letter. I will find her, she vowed.

Back in her tiny apartment Ida dropped her bag and was asleep in her bed in no time. The next morning she ate a quick breakfast, dressed, and caught the streetcar to the library. In the library she sat down with a city directory and turned to Oliver. There were 17 listed but no M.J. Oliver. With no solid leads she turned to the Yellow Pages and under Piano Lessons she found a listing for M.J. Oliver Private Piano & Music Lessons with an address and phone number. She quickly tried calling but there was no answer. She knew exactly where the house was located right close to the famous concert hall where her parents had taken her years ago. It was just a short streetcar ride from the Library.

Ida got off the streetcar and quickly walked two blocks to the address. On the black wrought iron gate was a small sign M. J. Oliver, Piano Lessons. She was trembling as she walked up the porch stairs of the white frame row house. Taking a deep breath she rang the bell and stepped back. The door opened and there stood a tall woman whose light auburn hair was peppered with gray. To Ida the woman’s deep blue eyes peering at her and her strong well-defined jawline were the image she saw of herself when she looked into her own mirror. Standing behind her in the hallway was a smiling, familiar face with wire-rimmed spectacles. Before Ida could speak the woman gazed at her with a slight smile and said “Come right in, we have been waiting for you!”

Not Lost
Anonymous

Bill was starting to worry. Well, not worry-worry. Just a little concerned.

We’ve been here….we were here. This clearing. That dead tree, that hill.
Or not?
Maybe not.
He stood still a moment. But not too long. He didn’t want to convey uncertainty to the kids — and definitely not lost.
Which he wasn’t.

Ollie looked over his shoulder at him, “This way?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Bill said and was tempted to trust his 8-year-old son the way you follow pickups that look like they know where they’re going down country roads.

“But just a sec. Let’s chill a minute.” He rested his boot on a rock, turning. Moriah, bringing up the rear, had her head in the bag of grapes. He didn’t know how she didn’t trip on a root and fall flat on her face.

“Let’s go, Mo!” She was going to finish those grapes. Which he knew when he gave them to her — but she was starting to whine, what could he do.

He heard an ancient echo, his own arrogant voice when Barb had told him to pack more food. “They’ll be fine fine fine fine….” He’d said it every time.

And they will be. It’s alright. He’ll carry someone if he has to.

Ollie was still going strong. He watched his son whack his stick against the rock, break it, and start looking for a new one.

“I thought you said we were going to look at a tempest?” Moriah whined.

Tempest? A wave swept over Bill for a split second, confusion, reeling. Let us not burden … He waited until it passed. …and she was saying “Dad, navigation!”

“The compass!” Bill said. Right. He took his phone out of his pocket, hit the app and handed it over, trading it for what was left of the grapes.

They’ll get Burger King. If they ever get out of here. He wouldn’t be cracking open his O’Douls until ten at this rate.

A screen on the scene drew Ollie. The kids started to argue. And then he snatched the phone. Fighting. Always fighting.

“Dad!”

Did he hear his little girl just call her brother a dick? Definitely got that from Barb. And The Tempest? What was that?

“Check it out,” he said, squatting. Among roots, rock, a carpet of moss and pine needles, a hole, what, a chipmunk hole or something. The kids draw in. He reads Ollie’s mind and stops him from jamming his stick into the hole.

“Maybe it’s Shrew Bettina’s.” He looks at Moriah, her mother’s eyes, nose, those cheekbones.

“Dad!” she says. It’s one of their favorite books. His favorite book. A shrew in her snug underground home. She has a party, with cake, and dancing….

He’d tell Barb that she was right about the food. He’d give her that. But he wasn’t wrong.

The west sun slants down through the tall pines and he recognizes them now. Yes, these are them. They’ve been here.

“Ollie, give it back to your sister.” Onward! Let’s go!


This Cat
Lee Graham

Slowly, she bent to pull the offending weed. Careful not to lose her balance, Roz stood then sank back onto one of the many benches her son had thoughtfully placed among her flower gardens. Resting briefly to regain her breath, she weakly tossed the weed aside. Frustration and anger at her offending body alternated with the peace of being among the once meticulously tended flowers. Roz, lulled by the sweetness of the Madonna lilies and the warmth of the late August sun, let her eyes close — just for a moment, she told herself. The orange tabby, sensing the stillness, jumped gently into the welcoming lap.

​The cat just arrived one day a couple of years back, bony thin, its fur matted. He strode right up to her and seemed to listen intently when she questioned who he might be and to whom he belonged. He followed her straight into the kitchen and demanded food. Roz called the neighbors, asked around, but no one knew of a missing orange cat. She gave over the guest bedroom to give him space and a chance to acclimate to her and to the old cat she lived with. He took to the bed, the litter box, the frequent offerings of food, and the kind words. He demanded more territory, soon leaping onto the kitchen counters and Roz’s desk.

​Roz made an appointment at her vet. She’d had dozens of animals. Horses when she had still owned the farm next door. Even now on her good days she walked up to the pasture with carrots or an apple for the new owners’ horses. And dogs – she’d had a series of Gordon setters, but the last one was a bit too much and when he was gone, she resisted the regular calls from the breeder. She really did not want another pet that might outlive her. But this cat, for some unknown reason, seemed to have given her little choice.

​Cleaned and patched, minus the burdock and fur mats, he was quite beautiful. She’d taken to calling him “Lucky,” but the vet said she’d never treated a lucky “Lucky” so, Roz now addressed him as “Charlie-cat.” She made a sign for her door: DON’T LET THE CAT OUT, because her many friends were used to walking in with only a shout of hello. She tried to sort out her feelings. Should she let him out and be happy if he left for some unknown home? Should she take him to a shelter so a young person could adopt him? In the end, Charlie made his own decision.

​He followed her around all day and seemed to pout if she shooed him when she went outside. He trailed her to the bathroom and sat by the shower, waiting. He lay sprawled on her desk, back to her computer, as she wrote emails. He was clearly, her cat. Roz bought him toys, a cat bed (which he seldom used), special treats, nutritious food. The vet was astonished when, weeks later, he weighed in at twenty pounds. “He needs exercise,” she said, “and fewer treats. He may think he is still starving, but clearly, he is not.”

​Apprehensively, Roz left the door ajar and quietly slipped out into her early spring garden. Charlie knew immediately that she’d gone outside and with no hesitation, even after months of captivity, marched out to join her. They developed a new routine. She’d weed for a while, empty the weed bucket, survey the progress of the Daphne buds, or fill the bird feeders. Charlie’d lie down right in the garden and she’d often have to physically move him to get at a weed. He’d lumbered along at her heels, more doglike than cat, never letting Roz out of his sight. Increasingly, she trusted that he would stay. He even let one or two of her friends pet him.

​Not Anne though. She stopped by often with Ollie, her golden retriever puppy. For years, Roz and Anne’s respective dogs had romped and played while their caretakers chatted. Charlie-cat bristled and trembled at first yip and Roz banned Ollie from the house. Charlie was clearly terrified. The vet surmised that his arrival at Roz’s had been the end of a chase and his instinct for survival outweighed any puppy’s friendliness. Anne could visit, but Ollie must stay in the car.

​Roz’s old cat died that winter though she hadn’t seemed unhappy to have a housemate. She was just very old and tired and really wanted only to sleep. Neither Roz nor Charlie missed her much, yet Roz often thought “she was supposed to be my last pet.” Roz’s stomachaches were unending these days and she knew, before her doctor confirmed it, that the cancer was back. At ninety-two, she’d been anticipating her mortality for years: selling the farm, building a small one-story house in the lower field, plowing under the huge gardens and building manageable raised beds; but that was twenty-five years ago; and the magnolia, she planted in the southwest corner, was now thirty feet tall.

​The years raced by. Roz had kept working into her nineties, done T’ai Chi each week, organized charity events, written mysteries that folks actually bought and read, driven-alone five hours every month to oversee the care and then the will of her former sister-in-law. She’d lunched and taken day trips with friends, hosted dinner parties for twelve. This summer, however, Roz was tired. Reluctantly, she let her routine slip, allowed herself a nap after lunch, accepted occasional help or a meal from a friend. She’d always been the one offering support, not receiving it.

​Like many, I stopped in more often, stayed a few minutes longer than usual. I took her fresh asparagus from my garden, the Swiss chard seedlings she’d craved. Anne organized an afternoon of weeding. My husband, Charlie (no coincidence – Roz always the flirt, adored him), brought equipment to mow and trim. Roz watched for a while then went in to nap. Later, as Roz served us lemonade, Charlie cat jumped into my lap. Observing, Roz wondered aloud what would happen if she could not care for him. We reassured her, should he ever need a different home, he would have one with us. Over the next few weeks, she began that same conversation at least a dozen times.

​The August days grew shorter; her daughter came to visit “for a while.” I called less often with Kate there. Then one early evening Kate called us. Could we come down immediately? Roz was demanding to see us. Her mother, she said, had had a stroke but refused to be hospitalized. Hospice had arranged palliative care.

​Terrified of what to expect, we drove in silence. Roz, her once beautiful face drooping a bit, lay in her bed, propped or protected by pillows with the cat snuggled close. We had to lean in to make out what she struggled to say. “I have to be sure that you will take Charlie-cat.” ​“Of course,” we reassured her, “but not tonight. You need to be together.” She tried to say more, but sank back onto the pillows. We stayed a while, talking with Kate and the others gathered around the bed, knowing Roz could hear us, but not really including her in the conversation. I remember telling her “You’re still beautiful,” and seeing a smile in her eyes. When we were pretty sure she was sleeping, we quietly edged our way out.

​Anxious to wrap things up quickly, Kate, direct as always, called again the day Roz died. “If you want the cat, you’ll need to come this afternoon.” Perhaps she did not trust that we were sincere in our offer or maybe she was just anxious to take care of the chores that follow a death. I couldn’t decide. I drove slowly, my vision clouded with tears. The long driveway looked the same; the house looked the same: but everything felt wrong: out of place. Somehow, I kept thinking Roz would pop out the door, but it was only Kate who matter-of-factly handed me a bag with cat toys, cat dishes, cat blankets, cat magnets, and Charlie’s vet records, followed by an oversized cat carrier occupied by a vocally displeased, twenty pound, orange cat. We talked the whole ride home – or I talked reassuringly and Charlie cat yowled, both of us in mourning.

​Out of his cage, though, Charlie marched around the house, sniffing and alert, then, somehow assured, settled into my lap. We sat together as the day grew dusky, each beginning to relax and accept our loss and each other. In the coming days, Charlie-cat followed me around, sat by the shower, leaned on my computer. After a while, when I felt it safe to allow him outside, he trailed me into my gardens and sprawled out as I weeded.

Epilogue

Charlie-cat stayed with us for two years. One late summer afternoon, we left him outside, asleep in the sun on the deck, while we were away for a few hours. He had never roamed. That bear hunters were training their dogs nearby did not occur to us. Later, we surmised that, terrified and possibly chased by the baying hounds, Charlie-cat ran. We scoured the nearby woods, alerted the neighbors, asked around as far away as Roz’s old neighborhood. We called his name dozens of times a day, but Charlie-cat did not return. It was months before we gave up hope.

I envision him, bony and matted, arriving at yet another house where a kindly human asks, “Who might you be and to whom do you belong?”


Hedda’s Challenge
Robert Hunn

Hedda knew that she would eventually go blind. It was hereditary. She has been preparing her life for the inevitable. Once that happened, she would have to adapt in ways she was still unsure of. Her story starts in Maine but then moves to San Francisco.

She and her husband had a good life in Portland. He was a successful professor and they often traveled together when he lectured around the world. She had been a pediatric social worker. Now that their son was grown and out of the house, she pursued her interests of gardening and sewing. She designed and constructed her own clothes which her friends considered quite fashionable.

She could tell her eyes were changing when she hit sixty. Images were less crisp, and her glasses seemed to get thicker and heavier every year. She constantly thought of what the future would be for her and how she would need to adjust, adapting to a world that she could not see. The impending loss of sight and natural aging would sometimes send her into deep depression until some simple event – her husband’s hug, reading something that touched her or seeing a plant bursting with color – would shake her out of her low state back to her often-cheery self.

Her sixty-third year was exceptionally difficult. Her husband of thirty-two years was tragically killed in an automobile accident. He was travelling at normal speed through a busy Boston intersection when he was T-boned by another car. The driver stupidly, tragically and fatally ran a red light.

Hedda was devastated.

Despite having many friends in Portland, Maine she still felt alone. She and her husband shared so much, appreciating jazz and classical music, fine art and theater. They hiked all over New England – Mount Katahdin, sections of the AT trail and walkways along the Maine shore. All of that evaporated with his death. Her vitality escaped her.

All she could see were the many challenges ahead – no partner in her life, her total loss of vision, no one to help her with all the changes. Fortunately, money was not an issue due to the car tragedy settlement, her husband’s life insurance and what he had left her. But none of that mattered to her. She wanted the life she had, not the life she was now facing. She would have to practically invent a new life. A life without a partner, without sight and other unanticipated challenges.

She continued to live in their house, but she knew she would have to move to a safer environment. As her eyesight became worse and she could not drive she heard less and less from her friends of many years. She was rarely invited to join friends for cultural events. She was dismayed when a new friend who was rapidly losing her own sight shared her reality with Hedda. “They don’t know what to do with us, as if we are now different. They get uncomfortable because they see us as disabled. We are now ‘sidelined.’ “Wow! I did not expect this at all.” She was very saddened by this revelation. She felt as capable as she had ever been. She fell into a month-long depression.

Then she got angry. “To hell with them!” She was going to live her life to the fullest that she could.

She knew about the many resources available to “the blind.” She used this term cynically when talking to government support agencies since they treated anyone who sought any vision assistance as “the blind.” She and people she knew who had also lost perfect vision preferred the term sight impaired.

Hedda knew that she would need to move to a safer place, more walkable year-round, perhaps an urban setting. She purchased a small house in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco. She wanted to fill her days and evenings with the cultural life of the Bay Area, meanwhile she continued taking classes in Braille.

Her new house, a cottage, was near a quiet street filled with all kinds of amenities. She still had enough sight to walk around her new neighborhood. She had a walk-out back yard which became a luxurious garden. She knew that eventually she would not be able to see the flowers and plants, but she could smell and feel everything. She made sure there was nothing planted with thorns or prickers.

Hedda and her husband had always smoked marijuana. They loved getting a buzz on and then going to hear music or viewing an art exhibit. This was never going to happen again. She did find some relief when she discovered THC edibles. She would not have to try to light something with her fading depth perception.

She became such a familiar patron at the cultural venues that staff knew her well. She simply called a taxi or UBER and had them drop her off at the front door. The staff would then show her to her seat from there. She tipped very well.

She particularly liked to dress in outrageous outfits. She had arranged her clothes very carefully, so she always knew exactly where each piece was hung or placed in a drawer. She mixed and matched outfits that would turn heads, particularly at the symphony or the Jazz Center. She loved to shock people seated near her when she heard disparaging whispers about her garb. “Can you tell me what I am wearing? Since I am blind, I have no idea what I grabbed?” She loved listening to the women muttering that carried on among her seat mates when they realized she was blind.

“The poor thing, she has no idea.”

“I actually think it’s quite stylish!”

“I have never seen those colors together on someone, hmm.”

Hedda’s hearing was very good and she smiled each time she heard the critiques.

Her new friend Irma who had recently completely lost her sight told Hedda that her greatest difficulty was knowing what to wear, given she could no longer differentiate garments by sight, just feel. She had organized the placement of her clothes when she could see so she knew what was where. But eventually it all became jumbled. Occasionally a friend would say “Irma, let me tell you what you are wearing” and Irma would be appalled. Hedda could see the dilemma she would be facing once she could not differentiate colors or patterns of the clothes she owned or wished to purchase. Hedda had real fashion sense from her years of sewing and interest in creating garments. She and Irma devised a rudimentary method of labelling their clothes with braille tags. Hedda bought a braille printer. With the help of a “seeing” friend she made up small tags in braille that would describe the garment; blue, red, or yellow stripes or solid with as much detail as possible without writing a paragraph. They attached the new tags to all their clothes in an obscure but consistent place.

Utilizing her new computer technically adapted for the sight impaired, Hedda shared her clothes ID system with the sight impaired group on Facebook. The responses were immediate, “Please do this for me, I will pay any amount.”

These immediate and numerous requests made an impression. Hedda started a new venture. She contracted with a clothes marketing firm to develop the idea. Hedda liked the business name of BAT fashions since she often referred to herself as “blind as a bat.”

“So, let’s put it out there.” She said, “It’s catchy, if not possibly offensive.”

Women’s boutiques talked to her about labeling some of their clothes.

Hedda became so busy with developing the business she put out an ad on social media sites. “Looking for a woman to work in women’s fashion business. Fashion design and marketing experience preferred. Sight-impaired essential.” Her ad created quite a stir. No one had ever specified a qualification of “sight impaired essential” before. Blind people are often the victim of employment discrimination. Employers are senselessly unsure of what adjustments or adaptations need to be made. Hedda knew that sight impaired workers were proven to be reliable, hardworking and very adaptable particularly given the new technology today.

She was flooded with applicants from all over the country. May Bendell was the final candidate. She had majored in fashion design and marketing at the San Francisco Art Academy but never graduated due to her sudden loss of eyesight. She convinced Hedda that her Braille labelling program and fashions could have a very broad market, all ages. May knew how to develop web sites and together they developed an APP as a resource for the sight impaired.

Hedda and May worked with a clothes manufacturer to create her own clothing line. Braille labels could be attached, always tucked in a convenient out sight spot when the garment was being made. They also developed a code for each type of garment that would be on a laminate chart with more detailed description in braille. The chart would simply hang in the closet. They even made sure the laminate had no sharp corners. Hedda’s business took off and she hired more sight impaired employees even a young man who had gone to the Fashion Institute in NYC but also had to leave prematurely due to sudden loss of sight.

For the first time since her husband’s death Hedda felt alive, she felt vital. She was very optimistic, really thrilled, that she was developing a business that would enhance the lives of sight impaired women. She especially enjoyed adding her personal design touch to some of the fashions.

Although BAT fashions had become a successful business, Hedda missed the touch and intimacy of a male companion in her life. She missed the tender moments of togetherness. She enjoyed her cadre of friends with whom she shared many like interests, although none of them enjoyed jazz as much as she did. She got a seeing-eye dog and named him Thelonious after her favorite musician. She and Theo walked everywhere. Up and down the hills of San Francisco. For occasional amusement she acted like she was deaf around new people. She always said, “It is amazing what people will say about you when they think you cannot hear.”

She went to hear Herbie Hancock one evening at the Jazz Center. She was brought to her seat as usual. Hancock was playing with quite a group, Joshua Redmon, Christian McBride, Nick Payne and John Mayall’s grandson Norm. As she prepared to sit in her aisle seat Thelonious started acting differently. Approaching the aisle seat in the row in front of hers was Edward Lucas. “Excuse me,” Hedda said. “Someone is playing with my dog. Thelonious is a seeing-eye dog and I would appreciate it if you left her alone.”

She then heard Edward say, “Well excuse me, someone is playing with my dog and she is a seeing-eye dog, please stop it.” After a slight pause they realized that they were both sight impaired. Already their respective dogs were getting to know each other and enjoying it. Once they understood what had occurred they started to laugh.

Hedda asked, “What is your dog’s name?”

Edward responded, “Why it is Herbie, named after you know who. And yours?”

“Thelonious, after you know who.”

Edward responded, “Well isn’t that something that our seats are together here at the end of the aisles. I hope you enjoy the show.”

They settled in. The dogs sat side by side cozily leaning against each other at the end of each aisle.

Hedda and Edward talked about the performances throughout the intermission. After the performance they continued their conversation across the street at the popular post-concert hangout. As they entered Hedda heard greetings directed at Edward.

“Edward, so good to see you.”

“Edward, how are you doing?”

“Edward, wasn’t Herbie magnificent tonight?”

Edward answered, “Thank you, thank you. Great to see you all. This is my friend,” and then he stopped. “Forgive me, but I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Hedda.”

Edward cocked his head. “How lovely.”

“This is my friend Hedda and this is Thelonious.”

“Welcome madam. Here are the menus. I will be back shortly. First, would you like some water, plain or sparkling?”

Hedda responded, “I would actually like sparkling, no fruit.”

“I will have the same,“ Edward said softly.

Hedda then said, “I don’t know why restaurants give us menus when we can’t see a damn thing.”

Edward then offered, “Try this one, you might find it helpful.”

Hedda opened it to find everything written in Braille.

“Well, I’ll be damned. I have never been to a restaurant that had a menu written in Braille. Oh, except for that new trendy place where they only hire blind people. The place is pitch black with just braille menus. You hear a lot of ‘This is not what I was expecting.’”

“I’ve been there a few times.“ Edward remarked. “It is different and fun to talk to the staff, but the food is not worth it.”

Hedda responded, “I agree, I think I got ill the only time I went. I won’t elaborate.”

“I took four menus from here and had them translated into Braille. Then I told all my blind friends and now they come here often. They also give the seeing-eye dogs treats here. Jimmy, the maître d’, said they had six or seven people with dogs here one evening. It was quite a scene with the dogs sniffing each other and their owners laughing at the sounds coming from them all.”

“Edward, this is just lovely. Now that I know what your name is, tell me a little bit about yourself.”

“Well, Hedda, I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Music was playing in the background; mostly selections by known artists – Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Max Roach, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, and many others. During their break, each musician stopped by the table to say hello to Edward who they called Eddie.

Edward paused and said “I grew up outside of Mobile, Alabama. I attended the University of San Francisco. I liked this area so much I stayed. I was married for thirty-five years. My dear wife Clara died of cancer fifteen years ago.”

“What kind of work did you do?”

“I first worked as a machinist for a company in South San Francisco. It was a good company and they treated everyone very well. I then worked for the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. I used my skills as a machinist to build devices used in medical research. It was a very interesting place to work. Good people. I worked there until my eyesight loss forced me to quit. They accommodated me for a longtime. It was my choice to leave. I did not want to be the sympathetic hire. And you, how have you spent your life?”

Hedda started talking, then stopped. She had not had a conversation with anyone about her past or who she was, is in a very long time. She was happy to be sharing again. Hedda and Edward closed the place at 2:00 a.m., both eager to continue building a beautiful new relationship.


Blue Eyes
Elizabeth Sterner

I have unhappily resigned myself to being alone. I never met the man of my dreams. Like anyone my age, I have many good memories and yet there is a space inside me that remains unfilled. I was never really happy living on my own. I often felt lonely so far from my east coast friends and family despite friendships with colleagues and their spouses at UCLA. At times, my apartment felt more like a trap than a home. During those dark times, I would become unreasonably jealous of the life that my best friend Jane had with her husband Henry. Why hadn’t I been as fortunate as Jane? I longed to share my life with someone.

From the first day that I met her, I liked Jane. She was a petite, dark haired girl who wore horn rimmed glasses over her bright blue eyes. Jane was very gregarious while I was the studious introvert. Somehow our contrasting personalities led to our becoming fast friends during college. Our senior year Jane met Henry and fell in love. They had a beautiful summer wedding on his family dairy farm in Cambridge, VT along the Lamoille River.

Over the years I have enjoyed my visits to Vermont that gave me a respite from my lonely existence in the bustling city of Los Angeles. Strange that living in such a big city surrounded by millions of people, I was lonelier than Jane and Henry on their farm outside a tiny village. Though it was a hardscrabble existence, Jane and Henry happily embraced farm life. Last year their happiness was overshadowed by the news of Henry’s pancreatic cancer. As he and Jane faced his mortality, I felt sad for my friend who would soon know how lonely I have felt all these years.

Jane and Henry put the farm up for sale as Jane could not manage it on her own. During my summer break, I helped her sort through their possessions as she chose what she would take to the house she was buying in the village. Fortunately, Henry died just before the sale of the farm and was not forced to move from the only home he had ever known. Flying back to LA after the funeral, I pondered how my life would have been different if I had found someone to love me like Henry had loved Jane. I decided, enough is enough. This will be my last year teaching. It is time to live close to those I love.

Now I volunteer at the village library a few days a week. I enjoy being there among the books that feel like friends and smell of paper, ink, and glue. The red brick library sits in the middle of town and has been a surprisingly wonderful place for me to meet the local people. I have settled into my life here and I am content. I spend time with my family and best friend anytime I wish, and I am getting to know the rest of the community.

On Friday morning as I get ready to go to the library, I find myself thinking back to Wednesday when a pleasant looking man I did not recognize came through the heavy glass double doors of the entrance. He had snow white hair, bright blue eyes and laugh lines that crinkled when he smiled at me. After browsing the shelves, he came up to check out and I spied the latest Ken Follett book in his pile.

“I read this. It’s excellent! Have you read the others in this series?”
“No” he answered, “though I have read other books by him.”
“Well, that’s actually okay, because this is the prequel to the other three even though it is the most recently written.”
“I hope I’ll have time to read all of these before they are due back. I hesitated over taking the Follett book because it is pretty long.”
“I found it a fast read.” I replied. “I see you also like Charles Todd and Louise Penny.
“Yes, mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites.”
“Mine too!”
“I’m Sam, by the way.”
“I’m Leigh, as in Vivian not Robert E.” I laughed, feeling my face flush as I feel a frisson of excitement.

Later my morning reverie is interrupted by the ring of my phone. It is Jane.
“Will you come to dinner tomorrow night? I’m hungry for lasagna and need some help eating it.”
“Only if you let me bring dessert. I just saw a great cheesecake with blueberry compote recipe that I am anxious to try out.” I reply.
“Sounds delicious, it’s a deal. Let’s say 6:00.”
“Great! I wonder if…”
“I have to run, there’s someone at the door. See you tomorrow night.”
I was going to ask Jane if she knows Sam. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

When I arrive at Jane’s on Saturday, to my complete surprise, Sam opens the door just as I reach for the handle.
“Hi” he says eyeing the basket in my hands. I heard you were bringing dessert.”
“Hi, I didn’t know you would be here tonight.” I exclaim, and then worry that he will think I did not want him to be there. “I’m sorry,” I stammer. “I am glad to see you and yes, I made cheesecake and homemade blueberry compote to go with it.”
Sam smiles, “That sounds delicious!”

I am still recovering from the surprise when Jane steps into the hall. She hugs me and takes my coat. Why is Sam here? Jane has not mentioned that she is seeing someone. I raise an eyebrow at her but she doesn’t notice. Drat, just when I had started to let myself have a glimmer of hope.

We move out of the hall into the cheery living room for drinks. I sit in a dark red and black brocade wing back chair close to the fire. Sam pours our drinks and then sits across the fire from me.
“Have you known Jane long?” I ask.
“Yes, I was Henry’s good friend, but I lived in Boston until very recently.” Sam informs me.

My mind is whirling with more questions about their relationship that I don’t dare ask. I sip my drink instead and listen to Jane and Sam chat about last week’s town meeting. Rising from the sofa, Jane says “I think the lasagna has cooled enough to slice it now. Sam will you carry it into the dining room while I slice the bread? Leigh, would you light the candles and fill the water glasses? The pitcher is on the sideboard.”

We move into the dining room with the beautiful maple farmhouse table that Henry’s grandfather made years ago. As I light the candles, they reflect in the burnished tabletop. A large green salad in a wooden bowl sits in the middle of three place settings. The rich smell of lasagna and garlic bread wafts from the kitchen. I lift the antique blue and white pottery pitcher and fill the three water glasses. Taking a deep breath, I remind myself that Sam was Henry’s friend, and it does not mean that he is in love with Jane. Although I wouldn’t blame him. Everyone loves Jane.

After filling our plates and enjoying the first few bites Jane says “Sam tells me you met him at the library.”
“Yes, on Wednesday.”
Sam smiles at me before turning to Jane. “This lasagna is delicious as usual.”

His lack of comment about our meeting leaves me feeling that my attraction to him is totally one sided. I take a deep breath and focus on the delicious food. After clearing the dinner dishes from the table, we decide to have our dessert in the living room by the fire.

“This cheesecake is delicious,” says Jane.
“I love the blueberry compote with it. I could eat this every day.” Sam smiles while addressing me directly for the first time since we started the meal.
“Thank you. I love making desserts.”
“I hope I get to try more of them. You ladies have spoiled me tonight.”

At nine o’clock Sam and I rise and thank Jane for her hospitality and the delicious dinner. As we head out the door, I give Jane a hug and Sam gives her a peck on the cheek. I am even more confused about their relationship. Perhaps they are only good friends.

Before I finish my coffee the next morning, Jane has rung me up.
“Hi! What do you think of Sam?” she asks.
Not sure where this is heading, I tentatively answer, “I think he is nice, why do you ask?”
“Because he hasn’t stopped talking about you since he met you at the library.”
I am totally floored. “What?”
“You heard me. He seems very smitten.”
I feel a twinge of hope. “Are you sure? Sam barely had anything to say to me last night that wasn’t about my dessert.”
“Yes, I’m sure” Jane responds. “I wouldn’t lie to you!”
“Why didn’t you say anything before I came over last night?”
“I wanted to give you a chance to get to know each other. I didn’t want to push him on you. I was waiting to see if I could tell what you thought about him before I said anything.”
“I would like to get to know him better,” I reply. “So, what should I do now?” I am suddenly eager to see Sam again, but I can’t think clearly. I don’t want to make more of it than it might be.
“Next Saturday is the library fundraiser auction and pot luck, right?”
“Yes.”
“I know that Sam is planning on attending, so there you go.”
“Okay.” I answer hesitantly.
“I’m sure that will give the two of you a chance to talk and get to know each other better.”
“Have you forgotten that I am going to be extremely busy? I’m in charge of the silent auction.”
Jane laughs “You still have to sit down to eat, don’t you?”.
“Okay, okay, that’s true” I say feeling like a schoolgirl with a crush instead of a grown woman.
“We have a plan!” Jane giggles and rings off.

The week goes by with nerve wracking slowness. I do not see Sam at the library. Saturday finally arrives, I am as nervous as I was when I waited for my tenure to be granted at UCLA. I decide to wear my favorite yellow knit dress that compliments my complexion and my waistline. I apply some lipstick and check myself in the mirror for the umpteenth time as I get ready to head out the door. When I arrive at the school cafeteria, I get busy setting out the donated auction items and putting bid sheets and pens by each one. Soon the room is filling up with smiling, chatting neighbors. I look around. I do not see Sam anywhere. I know that it is early and that not everyone has arrived, but I feel a little disappointed and very anxious.

Soon I see Jane coming in the door. She catches my eye, frowns, and shakes her head. Oh, no! The only thing I can think is that she is indicating that Sam is not coming. I feel very deflated. All that primping for nothing! Jane comes over and tells me that Sam called her to say that he would not be able to come after all.
“Did he say why?” I ask.
“He was in a rush and said he had something he had to take care of right away in Boston. He didn’t give me any details.”

I did not realize just how much my heart was set on seeing him tonight until I felt my eyes start to well up with tears. I should have guarded my heart more carefully. Why did I think I would find love at this time of life after searching for years and coming up empty handed? As the auction proceeds, I smile bravely at my neighbors through my disappointment.
Another excruciating week goes by without seeing Sam at the library. I fear he has gotten cold feet. I am sure he knows plenty of charming women in Boston. A second week passes. Jane and I have decided that she must have been mistaken and that Sam was not romantically interested in me.

On Friday evening, Jane calls. “Sam called a few minutes ago to catch up and told me that he has been extremely busy since he got back from Boston. He brought someone named Frieda back with him. I was just going to ask about Frieda when he said he had to go.”
“Well that’s that then. He is already attached to someone. I am disappointed. He seems like such a great guy.”
“You’re right. He is interesting and kind. I was hoping you two might connect. I am sorry to bring you such disappointing news. Why don’t we get together for coffee tomorrow morning?”

On Monday morning I am at the library shelving books that were dropped off over the weekend. The sunny day makes the library feel bright and cheery. My mood has lifted despite my latest disappointment. I am startled by a tap on my shoulder. I spin around and find myself looking into Sam’s blue eyes.
“Hello, Sam. How are you? I haven’t seen you in here lately.”
He raises an eyebrow at my tone of reserve. “I’m fine. I’ve been quite busy. How have you been?”
“Fine.” I answer while glancing over his shoulder looking to see if he brought Frieda, but I see no one.
“I was wondering if you could help me find the next Ken Follett book.”
“Did you finish The Evening and the Morning?”
“Yes, I really enjoyed reading it.”

I start to relax. He doesn’t seem to know that Jane was trying to set us up or that I was interested in him. I help him find The Pillars of the Earth and check him out. As he heads for the front doors, I quietly sigh. I am walking back into the stacks to continue shelving books when I hear footsteps behind me.
“Leigh, would you like to have dinner with me on Friday evening?”
I am so surprised that I can’t even speak as I slowly turn to him.
“I hope I haven’t offended you by asking.”
“Is this a date?” I blurt out, feeling my cheeks turn crimson.
“Yes, is that okay?”
“Yes, but, wait, what about your friend from Boston?” I ask as my initial excitement fades.
“My friend from Boston?” Sam asks with a puzzled expression on his face. Then he breaks out into a huge grin. “You mean Frieda? She’s my new cocker spaniel.”
“Oh, a dog!”
“Yes, so what about dinner?”
Joy and hope stream through me as I answer, “I would love to go to dinner with you.”


Thought for the Day

Compassion is an action word with no boundaries
PRINCE

How we treat one another is the only thing that matters
SAMITE MULONDO

One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers
GWENDOLYN BROOKS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Corona Chronicles
St. Patrick’s Day Edition

A song: Irish Blessing

May the road rise before you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May you be held in the palm of God’s hand.

Photos by Janet Williams


A St “Patrick” Story
Peter Reilly

Whether the lens through which you view our great country is blue or red, rural or urban, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, etc. you can’t deny the thing we almost all have in common – we’re all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. On March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, it’s hard not to be reminded that most of us came from across the ocean. After German ancestry the second most populous ancestry in the United States is Irish. Nationwide, the population claiming some Irish ancestry is estimated to be 11.2% with New York state having the largest at over 13%. Certainly, if there is a success story for an immigrant population coming to the United States it is the migration from Ireland. Most Irish immigrants arrived dirt poor with little or no education, but many would rise to the highest places in business, entertainment and government. While most people believe John Kennedy was the first US president with predominantly Irish ancestors, he was not. Both of Andrew Jackson’s parents were born in County Antrim, in Northern Ireland. They relocated to the United States in 1765, two years before his birth. The fact was that in the 1820s when Jackson sought the presidency, being Irish wasn’t at the top of the list for electability!

Coming from the New York metropolitan area, one is usually very much aware of one’s nationality. As you move geographically away, your nationality awareness diminishes. John Lindsay, a former mayor of New York, used to talk about the myth that New York city was this “great melting pot” of immigrants. Only it wasn’t! In the city there was the Italian neighborhood, the Irish Neighborhood, the Polish neighborhood and on and on. Aside from the occasional “West Side Story” coming together, there wasn’t a lot of “melting” happening in the city. Consequently, all the different parades became a big deal for whatever nationality is celebrating that day.

For many of us, a trip back to the country our ancestors came from is something very special. About 15 years ago, my wife Maggie and I were lucky enough to take that trip and be able to enjoy it with our son – who happens to be named Patrick. Patrick is an integral part of this story as he provided the push to get us to Ireland. 

Patrick has made a life on the ocean, sailing boats of all types. In 2006 he won a big race in the Antigua Classic Regatta and to celebrate he immediately sailed his small boat (23 ft.) across the ocean to Ireland. I should mention he was alone and the boat had no engine! Enough to give lots of parents gray (make that white!) hair. At his urging, we decided to visit him in Ireland and I would try to trace my family roots. I am third generation on the immigrant chart. My grandparents, who had landed at Ellis Island, NY, were from County Cavan, Ireland. Beyond that I knew almost nothing. The fact was, like many if not most, the reason they came here was because conditions were “God awful” in the old country. When they got here they wanted to become citizens and Americans as fast as they could. They worked hard, absorbed as much of America as they could, married, raised a family and served their new country. The sad fact for me is once here they didn’t talk about where they came from, the family they left or how scared they must have been. For sure, I should have asked more, but I didn’t. Life and growing up got in the way.

Our trip to Ireland actually started with a bonus. The airline had overbooked and were looking for volunteers to fly the next day. This is back in the day when compensation for delaying your flight was really worthwhile. We volunteered and ended up getting a flight and hotel deal to London a few months later. So we flew out the next day to Ireland, rented a car and set off to meet up with Patrick. We met and decided to drive all around Ireland and wind up in the town my grandparents had come from. At the county seat in Cavan we visited one of the many ancestry places that will try to trace your roots for you. We knew the town and the last name. The only problem is our last name is oh so common in County Cavan, Ireland. Nevertheless, they gave us something to go on.

My name is Peter. My brother, the oldest, is Philip. My father is Philip. My grandfather who came here from Ireland is Peter. So when we get to Ireland we think we’re looking for Philip or Peter. At the ancestry place they traced my great grandfather who in the registry of births signed his name as parent with an “X” and someone had printed his name for him – PATRICK REILLY. It turns out that when we named our son, unbeknown to us, we named him for the Reilly who sent his children to a new life.

There is one other footnote to the story. My grandparents, it turns out, were born and raised in different villages within walking distance from each other. We had always assumed that my grandfather came to the United States first and met my grandmother here. It turns out the records show that my grandmother came first with her family and then within a year my grandfather arrived alone at the age of 17. They had to have known each other in Ireland before coming to America. We’ll never know for sure, but I like to think it is a story of young love following young love.

If there’s one thing we should tell our children, it is to ask questions of us. I deeply regret that I didn’t ask more, because at some point so much gets lost and there’s no one to ask…


Photos by Audrey Deveney


Family vacation
Marcie Porter

Ireland was, and probably still is, the perfect country in which to travel with children. In May of 1984 we took our two boys, then 6 and 9, with us to Ireland, Scotland, and England, with the primary objective of tracking down and photographing ancient standing stones. Pre GPS and even decent maps, our long days were sometimes spent driving around on nearly empty country roads searching for the elusive old apple tree that marked a field or a trail in our guidebook. We climbed stiles and made our way through fields of sheep or cows, occasionally encountering a welcoming landowner. For the boys we made a point of spending time in one of the ruined castles or abbeys we encountered nearly every day, perfect for climbing and exploring—and imagining.

We had PB&J picnic lunches and dinners in pubs, which often welcomed the boys with glasses of milk on the bar that they could sip while watching the telly. And the B&B host families, sometimes with small children of their own, were understanding about such challenges as laundry that had reached critical mass. One mother offered me her washing machine, after which we laid all the bits and pieces of clothing around the house on the registers to dry overnight. In the end we saw countless stones of every configuration, explored islands, villages, and barrens, and had a magical time. Having the boys with us made our trip especially fun, despite my father’s dire warning that they would complicate it and wouldn’t remember anything. I kept a detailed journal, thank goodness, as well as lots of photos, to insure that that will never happen.


C. S. Lewis was Irish
Deirdre Good

Dunluce Castle and the Glens of Antrim

When we ignore or gloss over major aspects of a writer like C. S. Lewis—roots, religious affiliation, ethnicity—we diminish our own understanding of our subject, rendering the person less rich and less than complete.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 29th, 1898. His grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Hamilton, Rector of St. Mark’s, Dundela in East Belfast, baptized Clive Staples Lewis in St Mark’s on January 29th 1899. Lewis’ parents were from County Cork. His father Albert was a solicitor whose parents moved to Belfast to work in the shipbuilding industry and his mother Florence, “Flora,” was the daughter of a Protestant clergyman who served a parish in East Belfast. She studied at the Royal University of Ireland in Belfast where she gained First class Honors in Logic and Second-Class Honors in Mathematics.

But Lewis is Belfast, Northern Ireland’s most famous literary son. St Anne’s Cathedral website invited people on the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013 to record in a leather-bound book how they have been influenced by Lewis’ writings. Its website also highlights Lewis’ family connection to the Cathedral: his uncle, Sir William Ewart and several of the Ewart family are commemorated there. The C. S. Lewis 2013 Festival programme notes that after his father removed Lewis from Campbell College Belfast to send him to school at Malvern College in England in 1913, he became an atheist there at age fifteen. These are lively discussions of Lewis’ identities. They recognize the importance of his Irish identity and Church of Ireland affiliations but the BBC report of the 2013 Lewis commemoration at Westminster Abbey labelled him as an author of the best-selling Chronicles of Narnia and as a respected Oxford scholar and literary critic failing to note his Irish origins.

To take Lewis’ Irish character seriously is to recognize and define him as someone with two cultural identities: he was born Irish, and despite the fact that he resided and worked in England, he maintained an Irish identity: heaven in The Great Divorce is an “emerald-green” land. Although Lewis lived most of his life as an Oxford and Cambridge scholar, his dreams were of Ireland as he notes in his diary, and he visited the north or the south of Ireland almost every year. Lewis once described heaven as “Oxford placed in the middle of County Down.” In the Glens of Antrim (Northern Ireland) and in the golden sands of the Antrim coast at Portrush, Ballycastle and elsewhere, we glimpse Narnia. The Horse Bree in The Horse and His Boy, describes it: “The happy land of Narnia—Narnia of the heathery mountains and the thymy downs, Narnia of the many rivers, the plashing glens, the mossy caverns and the deep forests… Oh the sweet air of Narnia!” That Bree speaks of glens identifies an Irish (or Scottish, Welsh, or Cornish) landscape. What confirms Lewis’ voice is the cadences of exile that Bree expresses—as Lewis himself does—in yearning for a distant homeland. Such longing became a theme connected to joy in his writings: in his book Surprised by Joy, Lewis says “All joy…emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.” Irish currents run through the novels: to call Peter High King is to use historical Irish descriptions of High Kings of Ireland ruling over lesser kings and queens. Peter is High King in relation to Queens Susan, Lucy and King Edward in the Chronicles of Narnia.

As for his own reflections, Lewis himself surmised that he wasn’t recognized as an Irish author in his lifetime perhaps because he was a self-identified Irish Protestant atheist not a Roman Catholic. Alistair McGrath, in his excellent 2103 biography, C.S.Lewis–A Life, Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, says, “many still regard Lewis as lying outside the pale of true Irish cultural identity on account of his Ulster Protestant roots.” While McGrath discusses Lewis’ various identities including his Ulster Protestant roots, his atheism, his conversion to theism and then Christianity, and his Anglicanism, still other questions remain unaddressed: how did Lewis negotiate expressions of his dual cultures? Was he drawn to authors like William Butler Yeats, “an author exactly after my own heart,” he says in a letter to a friend, precisely because he wanted to investigate how Yeats “de-Anglicized” his own literary vernacular which he describes thus: “Yeats writes plays and poems of rare spirit and beauty about our old Irish mythology.” Lewis investigates Irish language in other poets: he sees in Spenser’s poem, Faerie Queen, the effects of Spenser’s sojourn in Ireland with its “quests and wanderings and inextinguishable desires, and Ireland itself – the soft, wet air, the loneliness, the muffled shapes of the hills, the heart-rending sunsets.”

A failure to recognize Lewis’ negotiated Irish identity is a failure to identify central interests of his life and writings. It is challenging to incorporate various religious and ethnic identities into our understanding of people, but our lives and identities are indeed composite and irreducible. By recognizing the intricacies of Lewis’ ethnic and religious identity, we broaden and deepen the means by which we try to understand all aspects of his life and thereby weexpand our own horizons.


Irish Brown Bread

From My Irish Table by Cathal Armstrong, Chef, Washington, D.C.
I make this often for it is delicious especially with smoked salmon.

2 cups of Irish-style whole meal flour
(available from King Arthur, I use regular whole wheat)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg lightly beaten

Make the dough: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Whisk flours, baking soda, and salt together and rub in butter with your fingertips until it resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and egg and work them into the dough with your hands until incorporated. Do not over mix.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form it into a a round loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Place on the baking sheet and with a sharp knife cut a cross into the top about 1/2 inch deep. Bake for 40 minutes until well browned. Place on rack and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving with lots of butter.

Nancy Perkins


Thoughts for the Day

Perhaps the most radical act of resistance in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.
~ARI HONARVAR

We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.
~STEPHEN KING

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: July 4, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXIII


Artist Think
Leslie Woods

At an art opening I explained to my husband how an artist had created her painting–placement of color, use of line, etc. A man had remained behind us and he later approached us in the parking lot. He said, “I never understood what my wife was doing in her paintings until you explained how an artist thinks.” I realized that Artist Think was often unclear.

Here I explain how I thought to create “Olice, Oh Lease on Life.” As a painter of sports, I filed in my memory a concept of Colin Kapernick kneeling. The number of Black Americans killed by police piled up in my mind as entire teams avoided the national anthem’s playing. Owners, politicians and fans argued. What does the Star Spangled Banner have to do with basketball? LeBron James wore a tee shirt with the message, “I can’t breathe.”

Assorted images were not enough without a key to express my own feelings. For many artists an idea or emotion comes first and I made thumbnail sketches for my idea file. Finally I saw yet another news story about shootings and protests with the police turned just enough that their shields showed “OLICE.” I found my key. Police are the front line but the issue is our society as we are the Olice. Usually meaning “a fresh start,” I felt the lease-on-life could instantly be cancelled for some citizens.

Like most visual artists, I studied perspective and the basics of line, value, shapes, sizes or proportions, rhythm and pattern. We learn to create movement and to move the viewer’s gaze throughout the work and we all begin with realism. But I had been dissatisfied with producing work that looked like everybody else’s. Fortunately I visited the Phillips Museum in Washington DC and saw the Jacob Lawrence Migration series. My first reaction was “Oh, I don’t have to paint normal.”

I felt as Picasso said, “there is no abstract art” yet I have no desire to recreate reality. As Shirley Trevena wrote, “I decided long ago that I would include more than one viewpoint in a single painting if it meant I could make the most of every object.” While we can admire all sorts of styles of art, an artist has personal preferences in color and shape and often a philosophy about the work.

To begin Olice, since I don’t paint sports heroes, I needed to represent the idea of my own anger and frustration. I placed a tall, slender teenage boy facing the larger Olice. To include my sports images, he is backed by a kneeling football player on a bit of green, to keep color near the focal point.

I draw all my figures although I study photographs and must interpret vague images with ones in my anatomy books. Some people are against using photographs, but David Hockney even projected them onto his canvases before painting them in his own style. An artist reorganizes what is seen into a personal interpretation. The focus on the teenager is through size, line and the innocent gesture of pushing back his hoodie. He is a vertical line opposing the vertical lines of police. The roads divide as do the shields. The roads are on angles to add tension and movement as do the bent police knees.

The shapes of the dead bodies and hoodie people are rounded while the police and shields have more lines and angles. Pattern is repeated through the “Greek chorus” of hoodie wearers. The city buildings in back are rhythmic vertical lines, brighter on the Olice side and used to add color contrast. The car blends in with the road but is a symbol for Driving While Black. The colors of the football player and teenager are red, white and blue. The player’s white shirt offsets the police shields. The hoodie wearers have color on their shoulders to indicate separate people who wear similar clothes. The two opposite masses enclose the conflict area around the teenager where colors and lines cross.

This painting accomplished what I needed. If I wanted to paint it again, I already know what I’d change, but I learn and move on, even painting over works I’ve outgrown. And I did not think specifically about the art items stated above because they are now an automatic part of my functioning. When a piece works, I get a little thrill in my chest telling me I got what I wanted. When that doesn’t happen, I use other strategies including checking my list like “Is there sufficient value contrast?” This thinking helps me evaluate buildings, gardens, movies, and all daily life. As Kris Engman, who teaches art at UMO, says, “…all exist because they pass through the hands of a skilled, trained artist or artisan. Our civilizations are rich because of these creative energies. Our very aesthetic is born in the Arts.”

Her statement came from a show of work by 16 artists in the Belfast, Mid-Coast area and Olice is in that show. “Art Matters” will run from June 29-July 30 at the Union of Maine Visual Artists Gallery at PMC, 516 Congress St, Portland. Opening July 2, 5pm-8pm and then exhibit hours are Monday, noon to 5pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm; and Friday and Saturday, 1pm-4pm.


Mom
Kristin Frangoulis

Our father, a soldier, went to war,
Leaving behind a wife,
A six year old girl, a four year old boy,
And a baby in the belly.

Dad settled us in Quincy near his Swedish sisters,
In a townhouse development by the bay, SnugHarbor.
We hadn’t a car,
Feet, our transportation.
We walked everywhere, to school, to the mom and pop grocery,
And for a treat to House Neck to share fish and chips.

A milkman came every day,
One day Hoods, the other Oakhurst.
Glass bottles with cream on the top clinked together.
We learned to like cottage cheese
So Mom could collect the Hoods aluminum tumblers in jewel tones,
Emerald green, sapphire blue, ruby red and gold.

The old fish man, his wagon pulled by his look- a- like horse
Clip clopped through the neighborhood every Friday.
He carefully weighed our oysters or sword fish on his scales,
The bread man in his blue van made the rounds too.
Mom only bought molasses doughnuts from him.
As she made all of our bread.

Before school began we did our clothes shopping for the year.
We drove with Aunt Olive to the Carter’s factory store
For underwear, and socks,
I got lollypop panties in rainbow colors and anklets only in white.
We took the train to Boston to buy school shoes,
Sensible, brown oxfords, always the same. I hated them,
But liked looking at my feet skeletons in the x-ray machine.

My favorite, the fabric and yarn store
To buy my mother’s art supplies.
She would buy one pattern to make 6 dresses.
Wonderful bolts and bolts of fabric were crammed into bins:
Plain cotton, dotted Swiss, gingham, calico, a plaid wool, and a corduroy.
Velvet for best and organdy and lace for collars and pinafores.
Always 3 yards for a skirt, with a generous sash to tie in the back
And buttons: shell, brass, silver, covered or shaped like animals and flowers.
The needle her paintbrush, the fabric her canvas,

Then came the yarn, skeins and skeins, stacked in a carnival of colors,
And complicated Norwegian patterns,
Sweaters, caps and mittens knitted for each of us each year
Until the winter chill demanded the prison of heavy coats.
She had an eye for daring designs and combinations.
I remember my favorite, a navy and cotton candy confection.

The war over,
Our father summoned us to Japan.
All our worldly goods to be stored,
Except for clothing to be packed, carried or shipped.
Passports to be made.
Shot after shot to be had: diphtheria, typhoid, tetanus, malaria.

An army of green Samsonite luggage ready,
A train from Boston too Seattle, with a change in Chicago….
Then a no frills military ship to Yokahama,
A two week voyage across the Pacific,
A rough crossing in August.
Mom, a woman alone with a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a year and a half old baby.


Human Navigation
Leslie Woods

For five years a neighbor and I walked together four miles a day and joked that in a few decades we’d need to add some GPS gadget to our walkers. That might be a mistake.

Older age has a natural decline in location cognition, so we should use a GPS less often and observe more. My husband once said, “They live on that sharp corner with the old red tractor in the field.” I said, “The only sharp corner was the house with four giant lilac bushes.” Same corner but different markers. Wouldn’t GPS be better?

I just read Super Navigators, Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way by David Barrie. Full of stories about bugs, birds and a few other mammals, the chapter on humans brought up cognitive neuroscience and the hippocampus, the seahorse shaped part of our brains that holds a key role in memory. Humans depend on the hippocampus along with special navigational cells to create cognitive maps. The first kind of map relates to physical space.

Once we lived on a dead end road and drolly began all directions with “At the end of the driveway, turn left.” Haven’t most of us given an address to someone from away who arrives at our door after carefully following roads we would never take. “Your GPS sent you on route 105 instead of route 3?” Mainers treasure tattered DeLorme map books while the GPS admonishes, “In 200 feet, turn right.” As we whiz past that right turn, don’t we all mock the voice with “If you don’t turn right, you won’t get any supper.”

GPS has affected human navigation more than by sending people along the slow roads. It is in a line of devices that actually reduce our native abilities and even our brain function. From the compass and sextant to GPS, we have traded our natural functions for reliance on machines, which began on and made sense while applied to ships and planes.

London cab drivers must pass a test called “the Knowledge” consisting of thousands of different routes in the city that take two or three years to learn. Those taxi drivers have a much larger rear part of the hippocampus than other people. Yet London bus drivers, presumably driving unchanging routes, show no enlargement of the hippocampus.

Tests show a difference in male and female navigational ability which has direct links to social position and inequality. Women were assumed to be less capable of driving from a team of horses to a car, which led to men driving while women cultivated a socially encouraged manner of helplessness. Military service required men to read maps and learn survival skills which were enhanced by off-road hunting, fishing and hiking.

Surprisingly, the second kind of map related to navigation and the hippocampus is social space and our position in a social world, behavior often associated with women. We map relationships from close friends to distant relations as electrical signals in our brains place others physically and allow us to predict their future behavior.

As Barrie writes, “Such diverse activities as conducting a conversation, managing social relationships, making sensible decisions, manipulating ideas, making plans for the future, and even exercising our creativity are impossible without a healthy hippocampus.”

City dwellers lose navigation faster than those in the country since they do not need to closely observe their surroundings or keep track of their whereabouts. After I exited the subway in New York, I walked less than a block to spot a street sign indicating if I needed to change direction. Generally humans flow in currents along sidewalks and require little navigation.

A recent newspaper article on hiking listed things to take: map, water, snacks, windbreaker, extra clothes and a fully charged cell phone. Seriously? Sadly Geraldine Largay, a 66-year-old nurse hiking the Appalachian trail in Maine alone, died alone. She left the trail to “relieve herself” and ended up two miles away with enough food and water to spend three weeks texting messages that were never received.

How often have people hiked and felt instant panic when they missed a trail marker? We no longer rely on even basic observational skills, audio signals as the terrain changes or the scents of certain locations. All hikers and walkers need to stop and look behind them or a return trip may appear bewildering. Maybe with more cell phone towers, old skills won’t matter, but I am reminded with a sense of wonder that my body has capabilities I can still enhance.

https://www.lesliewoodsart.com/


Thoughts for the Day

In nature there is no alienation. Everything belongs.
~DENG MING-DAO

Acceptance anchors us so that we might focus on the present rather than endlessly drift in a sea of wishing, dreaming, and pining for anything other than what is.
~ROSE ZONETTI

No one who has ever touched liberation could possibly want anything other than liberation for everyone.
~REV. ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: June 18, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXII


Raven
Tycelia Santoro

You fluff your feathered beard
Flap wide wings
Croak grumble
Harsh mumble
Clack

Yes, it’s time
You call the others

My peanuts for your trinkets
Your company

I am so much the richer one


Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, NH
John McClenahen

Timing
Mayo Bulloch

We waited so long that by the time we finally decided to sell our 5-bedroom family home, my husband and I had become invisible – no children out playing on the lawn, no loud teenage parties, not even a dog to walk. Not paying attention, we had become the old people in the gray house.

On one of our last days in the house, my husband was mowing the front yard, now decorated with a SOLD sign, when a young neighbor stopped to introduce himself and welcome Steve to the neighborhood. I watched them shake hands as Steve haltingly explained to the young man that he was in fact not moving in, but rather moving out, moving out after more than 30 years on the street. Embarrassed, the young man wished him well and hastened away.

I remembered when we were the young people with small children, pets, even a few loud parties of our own. I remembered the first Block Party, when Mrs. Nickles welcomed me to the neighborhood, and I wondered why this older woman thought I would be interested in getting to know her. So much time had passed since then, so many lessons in humility.

We’d had a good run, we’d made some lifelong friends, but we had stayed too long. We no longer even attended the Block Parties and made no effort to learn new neighbors’ names.

When we drove away that final day, no one waved good-bye. There were no tears. Our long chapter in a house that had witnessed great joy and deep sorrow was over. Despite our long tenure, our epitaph was brief, our lasting impression so fleeting that we could have never have been there.

But, we had been there. We had played a part in that young-family world. We had chaired the Block Party, organized the potlucks, helped distribute candles for the Christmas eve luminarias. In retrospect, those years seem idyllic – a well-lit chapter full of possibilities. Parents didn’t die, children didn’t rebel, we would jog forever with healthy lungs and flexible joints. We would never be the old people on the block.

And then we were, and we had to leave, let someone new live in the gray house. We would rotate to the next position and fill our empty nest with new adventures, with an earned understanding that things may not always turn out for the best, but they do turn out. And, we would try to be ready, looking for opportunities and watching our timing.


Multitudes
John McClenahen

“Will there ever be a Conservative Studies Program at Georgetown University?”

Two decades ago at a University open house a prospective graduate student posed that question to Phyllis O”Callaghan, then director of the University’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

With an Irish twinkle in her eye and the authority of a university dean, Dr. O’Callaghan explained liberal studies at Georgetown was not a political approach to learning, but a serious and demanding interdisciplinary effort bringing together students and faculty in the broad pursuit of knowledge—in essence liberating the mind.

I was in the audience that evening, a recent and appreciative graduate of Georgetown’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program during which I had sought to expand my knowledge of history and philosophy, supplement previous degrees in literature and government, and seek connections and contexts.

I wrote my master’s thesis on four Walt Whitman poems published between 1856 and 1883, seemingly a narrow and limited topic. It was not. “The Good Gray Poet” of nineteenth-century America was not merely a poet but, in his word, “multitudes.” Walt Whitman was born in rural America and died in industrial America, a remarkable poet for sure, but also a mystic, lover, democrat, nativist, nurse, and self-promoter. He celebrated Abraham Lincoln and the American Union, but also the Suez Canal, the transcontinental railroad, and the transatlantic telegraph cable. He sought to reconcile humankind and an understood god. He was an essayist, a newspaper editor, a prolific letter writer, and the author of two undistinguished novels, one of which yielded Whitman the largest payment for a single work. (Leaves of Grass was a financial failure.) Whitman, person and writer, was both consistent and contradictory.

Almost three decades later, as a person, a student, and a college teacher, I continue to champion “multitudes,” to pursue the consistencies and contradictions of history, philosophy, literature, government and science for consistency and contradiction in social, economic, technological and spiritual context. To find worth in the comforting, challenging, inspiring and sometimes discouraging fuller world of human existence.


Thoughts for the Day

All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you.
 The only lasting truth
 is Change.
~OCTAVIA BUTLER

Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.
~SARAH BAN BREATHNACH

~Again and again, I am reminded that the wild, like the human spirit, cannot be managed or reproduced, it can only be recognized, protected, and honored.
RICK BASS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: June 10, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXI

Photos by John McClenahen

Lucerne, Switzerland
Old Havana, Cuba
Winterthur Museum, Delaware
Chadds Ford, PA

Artwork by Audrey Deveney

 


Thoughts for the Day

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.
~LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
~RACHEL NAOMI REMEN

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.
~JON KABAT-ZINN

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: August 5, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXV

Photography by Doug Chamberlain


Thoughts for the Day

Grace is the ability to redefine the boundaries of possibility.
~MANNING MARABLE

Things are far too serious for us to lose our sense of humor!
~TERRY PATTEN

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
~ELIZABETH GILBERT

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.
~GOLDA MEIR

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: July 18, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXIV

Photographs by John McClenahen

Curb Stones
Windows of Chamonix
Le Dejuener
Siesta time

Thoughts on Travel
Paul Sheridan

Have been thinking about what we have been missing, and the recent Senior College Travelogues via Zoom, and wondering when when we will be able to get into Europe for an upcoming trip, but also able to be allowed back into the US? There are still “variants” out there to consider…so glad we delayed that bit of travel until Sept 2022.

From a previous European visit, these photos are from a trek tracing the “Trail of the Vikings” — somewhat in reverse, from Scotland up through the Shetlands, Orkneys, across to Bergen, Norway and Copenhagen. We travel to see the world from different perspectives, and these photos were from a camera that can make the invisible into the visible. We know that all lenses and cameras distort: we do know that the world is not flat, nor frozen in time.

Infrared light is just what it sounds like: beyond red. We cannot see it, but some animals can, as can some cameras. In fact the sensors in digital cameras do see infrared energy, and must be constructed with an internal filter to minimize it. “IR-converted” cameras have had the filter surgically removed, yielding somewhat monochrome pictures in deep purples and blues. Takes a small bit of software manipulation to bring the tones into line with something the human brain can appreciate.

Speaking of traveling, and appreciating what you have, right now:

A man sees an ad for a $50 cruise on Craigslist.
Despite his better judgement, he grabs some cash and makes his way to the address given in the ad.
He opens the door to a small office and is knocked unconscious from behind.
He wakes up tied to a barrel floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Well, this sucks,” he thinks out loud.
A second man floats by, also tied to a barrel.
“Tell me about it,” the second man replies. “This is worse than last year.”

Shetlands, Scotland
Jarlshof, Shetland
Railroad snow plow, West Scotland
Edvard Grieg’s view, Bergen
Roskilde, Denmark
Entering Copenhagen

Calling all animal
lovers – an opportunity to help the homeless

Introducing Maxx and Mrs. Queen, a wonderful new book written by Janet Williams and illustrated by Kim Jacobs. Maxx and Mrs. Queen is a heartwarming and unusual animal rescue story. Maxx, Harry, Greta, Tootsie, and ZaZa were themselves homeless until Uncle Oscar found them one cold, dark night and took them home. When Uncle Oscar is to be awarded an honorary title, Mrs. Queen invites Uncle Oscar to bring his family to meet her at the palace, and so begins this imaginative story of rescuing dogs and cats from life on the streets and finding them loving forever homes. Be prepared to laugh and cry as the story winds its way from Buckingham Palace through the streets of London and St. James’s Park, bringing the homeless animals to safety, a Royal Fur Ball, and much more.

Maxx and Mrs. Queen is a 6″x 9″ soft bound chapter book, 51 pages, with three full color illustrations and 17 black and white drawings, $13.95. To order books and for more information on the book and animal rescue please visit the website.

All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated for animal rescue.


Thoughts for the Day

Trust yourself; you know more than you think you do.
~BENJAMIN SPOCK

No matter what accomplishments you achieve, somebody helps you.
~ALTHEA GIBSON

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
~MAYA ANGELOU

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: October 2, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXIX

Photo by Doug Chamberlin

September 2021

Tycelia Santoro

The day round as pumpkin,
as orange.
Apple crisp, as red.
Smoked air.

The aster night,
as purple.
Cricket longings.
Leaf sighs.

We reverse,
day into night.

Question hope


Fall Smiles
Brenda E. Smith

Hands down, fall is my favorite season of the year. It has always been the time of year that I feel most alive. It is a time of myriad changes. Kids head back to school wearing new outfits a size or two larger than the ones they outgrew over the summer. Hummingbirds that slurped nectar from my orange nasturtiums are well on their journey to warmer climes. The air that was so swelteringly oppressive and heavy to breathe now smells of crisp and refreshing breezes. The sun goes to bed earlier and the darkness of night like an over anxious guest arrives too early. Beachy tank tops are replaced by plaid flannel shirts, gardens that produced colossal quantities of zucchini and tomatoes dwindle and dry up.

The trees outside my window are impatient as they begin to feel the change too. They start to don their costumes for the annual spectacle they enact each October free of charge for all to behold. Their theatre pays homage to nature’s surrounding beauty. Some dress in robes of red to honor the crimson sunrises that signal the start of each new day. Others layer in shades of orange that match the plentiful ripe rose hips on the bushes nearby. There is the gorgeous warm deep yellow of abundant goldenrod that rustles in the wind filling us with a sense of gratitude for this season. My favorite wardrobe color is the blend of gentle pink and peach intermingled on the same leaf. It echoes the harvest moon’s reflection on the rippled surface of the ocean as twilight leads the way into darkness.

I feel a sense of great anticipation as the trees groom to play their parts. Each day more colors burst alive. Each tree on its own is quite splendid, but when all the actors join together on the stage the sight is gloriously breathtaking. Finally, I stand mesmerized and try to record the brilliance of this performance in the picture book of my mind. Nothing is as perfect as the original masterpiece itself. As the final act plays out, the actors bow to their loyal spectators. With each bow hundreds of leaves shake free and float to the earth below. Their purpose has been served. A few tenacious stragglers cling to their branches loath to accept their fate. But the fall breezes urge them trembling into one last dance – then snatches them to drift, helpless. Bare naked the trees await the freeze and cold bleariness of winter.

I think that Mother Nature offers us a valuable lesson about life. In the cycle of our own lives, we are born in the spring, small vulnerable sprouts that grow, learn and begin to form into the person we will be. In our summer, we are productive and work hard to succeed at jobs, raise families and make an impact on our communities. Our fall is the time for celebrating our accomplishments. We try to check off a few more of our bucket list items as we prepare for our last dance. In our winter, each day becomes a challenge, our bodies and minds wither, and we wait exposed for death to take us. We depart, knowing that in nature’s cycle, Mother has given us the promise of rebirth in the spring.

It is fall now. I’ve passed through spring and summer. The trees are starting their grand celebration and I want to celebrate with them. I‘m not quite ready to think about winter yet. I want to spend my time doing the things I love with people I love. I want to write about the amazing life I’ve had and learn new things I’ve always dreamed of learning. I want to see places I’ve never seen and meet people who are different than me. If this is my last hurrah, I want to celebrate until I’m utterly worn out. Then the winter gale can snatch me, but I’ll have a smile on my face as I’m lifted aloft.


Photos by Audrey Deveney

Fall at Bayside
Fall at Sharp Top Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Talk on Irish Stained Glass
David Caron

October 13th 2:00 p.m. EST
Please join me for a fascinating discussion

“In this illustrated talk David Caron will shed light on Ireland’s celebrated stained glass, from the foundation of An Túr Gloine (The Glass Tower) studio in the early 20th century to contemporary artists working in the medium today. David’s talk will give an insight into the preparation of the new edition of the Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass (Irish Academic Press, June 2021). This publication is a significantly updated and expanded edition of the original 1988 gazetteer.”

https://stained-glass-museum.arttickets.org.uk/stained-glass-museum/2021-10-13-irish-stained-glass-from-an-tur-gloine-to-the-present-day

Deirdre Good


Thoughts for the Day

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
~RUTH BADER GINSBURG

What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.
~C.S. LEWIS

Music…gives wings to the mind, a soul to the universe, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, a life to everything.
~PLATO

Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.
~GARY SNYDER

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: September 16, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXVIII

Photo by Doug Chamberlin

9/11: Tragedies
Remembered
Brenda Smith

Twice, eight years apart, my phone rang a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. on September 11th. In 2001, it was my neighbor, Hannah, calling.

“Turn your TV on!” she screamed, her panic filled voice sent shivers through my body.

“Why? What’s happening?” I demanded.

“Just turn the damn TV on!”

“What channel?”

“Any frigging channel. It’s on all of them. An airplane just frigging flew into the World Trade Tower.” I clicked the on button on my remote control.

“What? How?”

As my TV screen lit up, the horrifying image of a jet smashing straight into the upper floors of the North Tower made me gasp.

“Oh my God, Hannah. What happened?”

Good Morning America anchors, Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson, struggled to make sense of what was happening. In silent shock, we watched the replaying loop of the crash footage comingled with live shots of the inferno raging inside the tower, as minutes ticked off.

Then, Diane Sawyer announced officials had determined the plane was an American Airlines jet that had taken off from Boston on its way to Los Angeles.

“What?” Hannah and I voiced in unison, as we both realized that for that plane to be in New York City, it had to have traveled hundreds of miles off track. It also meant that many of the passengers on the plane were from the Boston area, possibly even someone we might know. While we were trying to process this new information, we noticed a second airplane enter the frame of our TV screen flying directly toward the undamaged twin tower.

“No!” I screamed as the jet pierced a gaping hole in the South Tower, out of which gushed an enormous orange fireball.

“How can this be happening? This isn’t an accident.” I shouted.

It wasn’t. Neither Hannah nor I could tear ourselves away from watching the unfolding tragedy. That night I cried for a world turned upside down, for the thousands of innocent victims, for the people who lost their loved ones and all the children who lost parents. None of us would ever be the same after that day.

In 2009, it was my mother calling. I had just begun my morning tasks at my job in Cambridge.

“You need to come to the hospital right now.” My mother begged. “The doctor called and said Dad could pass any time now and we need to come right away to say our goodbyes.”

Although he had fallen ill only two weeks earlier, I knew Dad’s condition would eventually be terminal, but he had been stable for the last few days. I was nowhere near ready to say goodbye. My first thought on waking that morning had been relief that at least the day my father died wouldn’t be 9/11. That tragic day already had enough grief ascribed to it to last for generations.

“Please, you’ve got to come now. Your brother and I will meet you at the hospital. Please hurry!” The urgency in my mother’s voice was compelling.

I hung up the phone, put my head on my desk and wept. During the longest hour of my life, caring work friends drove me to the hospital where my Dad slowly was slipping away.

Other relatives arrived to give dad’s hand one last gentle squeeze or place one last tender kiss on his cheek. My mom, my brother and I lovingly watched over him while angelic background music calmed the melancholy we were all feeling.

I sat flustered unable to fathom how this could be happening. How in one instant Dad could be here and the next gone forever. Only when I saw the pink fade from his cheeks, leaving in its place a faint blue hue, and his chest no longer struggled to expand, did I realize how achingly deep my loss was.

That night, I cried for my world turned upside down. I would never be the same after that day. More than ever, I felt an intimate personal bond with all the people who had lost a loved one, with all the children who had lost a parent on September 11th, that most tragic of days. We, will never forget them.


Excavating my Desk
Rebecca Jessup

What does the surface of my desk even look like?
Hasn’t been seen for years.
Bills, piles of poems to work on,
current student’s folder (needs work, moves to top),

lost pens and pencils, a thumb drive (what’s on this?)
That’s the top layer. My parents’ wills,
and mine (unfinished draft), pads of scrap paper,
undated notes-to-self, incomprehensible now,

unreturned phone messages from two years ago,
envelopes marked URGENT – FINAL NOTICE,
handwritten letters from last century.
Receipt for a new toaster oven, maybe 1990.

Clipped recipes (cooking with cream of mushroom soup).
Baby pictures of my kids now in their 40s,
one of me on a tricycle.
Some copies of my birth certificate.

Passport renewal form (expired now),
newspaper clippings,
my grandfather’s obituary (a mining engineer,
worked in Mexico and California).

Picture of my parents toasting each other.
My great aunt’s book of her own (bad) poetry,

and Oh, look! that key I thought was stolen.


Emotions
Audrey Deveney

Emotions are hard to evaluate or explain. Sometimes they don’t make sense until years latter. My first experience with trying to make sense of one occasion was in 1995. I had mailed two photos to a Virginia TV station for a contest of having my work judged for their next calendar. Out of 100’s of entries, both of mine won. What do you say to yourself? Wow – congratulations – What – now really –

Then yesterday, September 7th, as I was starting to write out a check for my cart of groceries at Hannaford’s, a woman steps up to me and says, “It’s taken care of.” I looked at her in confusion, what’s she talking about? The woman hands her credit card to the cashier and the groceries are paid for. How does your mind process that? A blessing – what now – Really – guilt – who are you –

It is hard and confusing to be a Winner. Why me – there are many more deserving – are you sure – it is shocking – how to process this –

EMOTIONS

THANK YOU

On the Blue Ridge of Virginia
Fall in Virginia

The least I can do
Rebecca Jessup

I can make the bed,
no matter which barbarians are at the gate,
monsters of debt collection,
pretenders of religious pamphlets, or
ogres — bearers of bad news.

I can make the bed,
no matter what I cannot tackle,
piles of laundry,
unsorted mail and unpaid bills,
dirty dishes piled up.

Whether the phone does not ring,
because the kids do not call when I wish they would,
because nobody calls when I wish they would,
or the phone rings
because the kids are heart-broken, or unable to cope,
or because someone is sick, or dying,
or because my doctor has some concerns about that last test,
the bed, at least, is made.

Whether the radio announces
record-breaking wildfires,
power outages likely,
or just another long storm,
it will not affect the bed.

I may not haul out the vacuum
or face the “to do” list. Still,
I can make the bed.

I can haul the mangled mess to the floor,
shoo away the cat, toss the sheet straight,
brush out folds and wrinkles,
pull blankets up, fold over the topsheet,
stretch out the bedspread, aligning
chenille flowerbeds with corners,

so that here, at least,
this small corner
will be today’s victory,
no matter how minor.

Who is to say this is minor?
I can always
make the bed.


Photos by Doug Chamberlin


Thoughts for the Day

I’m glad I understand that while language is a gift, listening is a responsibility.
~NIKKI GIOVANNI

A harmonized mind produces harmony in this world of seeming discord.
~PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA

You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.
~JUNOT DÍAZ

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
~EDEN PHILLPOTTS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: September 6, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXVII

Photo by Doug Chamberlin


Monday Morning
Reflection
Nancy Perkins

I recently reread each of the thirty-six Corona Chronicles published since May of 2020. As we mark the beginning of the second series of the Corona Chronicles I remain in awe at the talent and creativity of our community. From poets, painters, photographers to essayists, writers, reviewers, and raconteurs this collection continues to educate, entertain, and lift our spirits as we collectively live through the days, months, and years of the Covid plague.

While I had hoped that we would be resuming a somewhat normal life this fall, the spread of the delta variant has made it impossible and each day I read of additional cancellations of events in the local papers. Zooming once again looms large on the horizon in order to maintain relationships with friends and family. Zoom religious services, classes, social events, and even medical appointments seem to be multiplying daily. While “Zoom fatigue” may be the order of the day I would not like living without the ability to at least see and hear from friends and family. Patience, not always my strongest suit, must be practiced to deal with this ongoing period of estrangement from so many.

So as we begin another year, please join me in celebrating all who have helped make what we conceived of as a temporary experiment in maintaining community such a success. Janet Williams and I look forward to continuing to celebrate the talents of all of you and we both urge you to send us your offerings for it is through our shared expressions that we preserve the bond that unites us and that has made Belfast Senior College such an essential part of our lives.

Nancy Perkins – nanella133@gmail.com
Janet Williams – williajanet@gmail.com


Lilac Promise
Kristin Frangoulis

Gold rings together in a box of blue velvet
The wedding will be simple,
Homespun dignity.
We will walk past the waterfall,
Up the hill to the white village church,
Turkey and ham ready to be cooked in our farmhouse kitchen,
Friends will bring salads and breads to be shared.
The upper room in the barn scrubbed for the reception,
Freshly painted, curtains and watercolors hung.
My gown of cream ruffles and ribbons waits.
My groom’s gray pinstripe suit pressed

Flowers yet to be gathered from our garden,
We hope for lilacs and lily-of-the-valley
To make bouquets with paper doilies and bows.
But May in Maine, lilacs late.
What will we do?

On our wedding, morning we open the kitchen door.
To find the back hall filled,
A profusion of purple perfume greets us,
Hundreds of tiny blossoms,
In heavy heads of color, countless hues:
Lavender, mauve, plum, violet, rose and shell pink
Stuffed in bottles, vases, canning jars and pails,
No notes,
Just love,


Photographs by John McClenahen

Sunset near Greenville
Fort Point State Park
Belfast Harbor
Castine

Anticipation
Reflection
Anonymous

I had been a widow for three years when I moved into a small townhouse a block away from the river in the old and historic district. It had a lovely brick-walled garden with french doors leading into the open living space. This new location in the middle of the bustling city was close to restaurants, shops, and historic sites. I hoped it would help me recover from the recent deaths of my husband, mother, and my beloved black lab.

Aside from family, old friends, and my long-time book club, I had invited very few people to my new house. One early April afternoon I ran into a former acquaintance in the grocery store and we chatted for a bit. His wife, who had died a few years before, had been my friend since high school. My late husband and I had come to know them as a couple and had shared theater outings, day trips, and the occasional meal. I had seen little of him in the past few years and as we caught up with one another, beside our sparsely filled shopping carts, I suddenly said “Why don’t you come to dinner Friday night?” I was surprised to hear him reply, “Sounds good, what time?”

We separated and I drove home from the store thinking about what to fix for dinner. Friday evening arrived. I had dinner ready but I was as nervous as a teenager on a first date. The doorbell rang and there he stood with a bottle of wine. We began to talk, sat down to eat, and for the next four hours our conversation never stopped. The candlelit room, the good wine, and shared feelings of loss had worked magic on both of us.

He stood and said it was time he left. I walked him to the door that led out to the garden. There was a light, spring rain falling, the smell of earth and jasmine was heavy in the air and the night mist rising from the river in the distance. He turned and kissed me, thanked me and quietly left me standing in the doorway. Trembling, I knew there was something to look forward to again.


The Changing Seasons
Doug Chamberlin


Thoughts for the Day

It is a powerful practice to be generous when you are the one feeling in need.
~ALLAN LOKOS

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.
~RUMI

At night our fear is strong. . . but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.
~MALALA YOUSAFZAI

This is the time to fly, to create, to investigate, to listen, to invent together.
~BAYO AKOMOLAFE

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: August 17, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXXVI

Photo by Doug Chamberlin


Monday Morning
Reflection
Nancy Perkins

Following a sobering look at the news this morning I opened my email to find a message from Rev. John Nieman, interim priest of St. Margaret Episcopal Church in Belfast. He forwarded the passage below from a Meditation of the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, retired Episcopal Bishop of Alaska of Choctaw Ancestral Lineage.

“How dark these days seem to so many. The old reality becomes the new reality through the fog of war, of retreat and realignment. The earth shakes and an already crippled society struggles to stay on its feet. The wind blows and whole towns are consumed by fire, the cinder and the ash testimony to a hotter world. A pandemic continues amid a political hinge-point between ideology and reason, which way will it go? How dark these days seem to so many. That is why I want to stand just a little taller, reach just a little higher, and let the light of our liberation shine just a little brighter. Dark days are what faith was made for: we are not naïve about what we face and neither are we afraid. The work to come will be long and hard, but as believers we are used to that. To respond, to repair, to renew. Look up, and see the faithful of all creeds creating light out of shadow.”

His words helped me absorb the multiple crises I both see and read about today. The overwhelming sadness of watching the Haitian people deal with another disaster, the horrible pictures from Afghanistan and the fate of all who live in that war-stricken land, followed by the increasing numbers of children and adults diagnosed with the Delta variant make me realize how the world is struggling in so many ways. As humans we search to blame one another, to castigate politicians, to lash out at ignorance and greed. But Bishop Charleston’s words are inspiring and are a call to action and we must heed them and “respond, repair, and renew.”


Celebrating
Ann Mullen

Public Gardens Are a Gift
Jim Owen

Ann Mullen came here late in her life…
Acting years younger,
she plunged her hands deep into our soil,
sharing 70 years of garden passion,
bringing plants to life and beauty to our eyes;
Grove Cemetery,
and the Post Office garden
both felt her devoted touch.
Public gardens are a gift
local gardeners create,
again and again,
their hands working the soil,
bringing joy into our lives.

For many years, she was
a familiar sight in town,
one of many
Garden Club volunteers…
garden tools in hand.
Her smile
was as full of life
as her plantings.
Ann Mullen will be remembered,
a master gardener,
She was a radiant perennial herself.

It takes special people,
to invest their lives
in flowers, bushes, trees,
knowing that they will not live
to see them all full-grown,
in leaf or in blossom,
but others will.


Celebrating Penobscot Shores

For your entertainment, a YouTube video made by residents of Penobscot Shores, including many members of Senior College, to celebrate 25 years.


‘Art Matters’ exhibit
by the Mid-Coast
Salon

The Mid-Coast Salon exhibit “Art Matters” is on display at the Hutchinson Center from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday through September 30. It is free and open to the public.

Mid-Coast Salon is a monthly discussion group of two dozen accomplished artists brought together by their love for and commitment to art. In this exhibit, 16 artists present 54 diverse works of drawing, painting, photography, pottery and flex-forms. Participants include nationally known Belfast painter Harold Garde, now in his 99th year. Garde’s painting, “Tell a Story” is one of the few he’s done “where it felt appropriate to incorporate words.”

This show was first exhibited in July at the UMVA Gallery at Portland Media Center.


Photos by Doug Chamberlin


Help Wanted: Graphic Designer

Arlin Larson is working on a huge project to put all issues of Corona Chronicles into book form. We are looking for a graphic designer to create the front cover for this book. If you or anyone you know could help, please contact Arlin at arlintlarson@gmail.com.

Thank you!


Thoughts for the Day

No matter how dark the cloud, there is always a thin, silver lining, and that is what we must look for.
~WANGARI MAATHAI

The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.
~ST. TERESA OF ÁVILA

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
~WILL ROGERS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: May 24, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXX

Windows of Belfast
John McClenahen


Armchair Adventurer
Nancy Perkins

When we relocated to Maine from the congested, traffic-snarled Washington D.C. suburbs I had wonderful visions of long walks and hikes throughout the parks and wilderness areas of Maine. As a “walking” traveler nothing was ever more appealing to me then ambling through foreign locales, meeting people, absorbing the smells of a new culture, hearing unfamiliar sounds and finding hidden surprises and unexpected sights away from the tourist spots.

I imagined my new life in Maine would include early morning walks beside the water, afternoon strolls in aromatic pine woods or among fields of wild flowers, and in fall brisk hikes amid painted autumn landscapes. In Summer I would take long swims in deep, cool lakes and in winter I remembered how much fun sledding could be. My new life in retirement would be “how life should be” to borrow a popular marketing phrase.

I had vacationed in Maine for decades enjoying the splendors of the state from Sebago to Bar Harbor. Two of my three sons had settled in Maine to raise families and pursue the good life. Both have a strong love of the outdoors and have biked, climbed, canoed, skied, and generally enjoyed all forms of outdoor life in the Pine Tree state.

While I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records in outdoor activities I had no idea that my days of outdoor physical activity would come to such an inglorious and unhappy end. I had been dealing with peripheral neuropathy for several years and found it was fast becoming more difficult to walk. Balance issues accompanied by pain were interfering with many aspects of my day-to-day life. I sought every type of remedy and medical solution to no avail. Swimming at the YMCA was great until Covid reared its ugly head. Now I have a stationary bike that sits quietly in the corner of the room. Tomorrow…

Now my exploration of my new state is limited to car trips but I have discovered the joys of the armchair traveler. My active sons visit scenic sites, hike impressive trails, and through countless photos of their adventures let me see the beauties of Maine. It is obviously not the same as being there but there is a true thrill in knowing that I will see the views from trails and scenic outlooks they send me with that ever so bittersweet message: “Wish you were here.”


May Colors
Elizabeth Irwin Sterner

The yellow house contrasts with the white wicker on the patio.
Pink, orange, red and yellow tulips open against a background of green in the garden.
Blue water sparkles in the bay and the sun reflects off the white sails of a boat.
The red channel marker stands out amongst the white moorings and fishermen’s buoys.
The hills and mountain in the distance are dark blue against a pale blue sky.
The birch garbed in dark red stands out among the trees wearing green.
The lilacs bloom purple, lavender and white.
The black, tan and white dog sprawls on the blue green slate of the patio.
Spring has come to Union Street.

Elizabeth is a Board member of Senior College


Thoughts for the Day

You have to be able to imagine lives that are not yours.
~WENDELL BERRY

Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.
~RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Walls turned sideways are bridges.
~ANGELA DAVIS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: May 13, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXIX

Toby and Cassie, Co-Editors of Corona Chronicles


Photos by John McClenahen, Swanville

Belfast Bay and beautiful spring flowers from John’s garden in Swanville

Mont Blanc, taken at 12,000 feet above Chamonix, France.

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top.
Then you will see how low it was.”
Dag Hammarskjold


Leaving Home
Janet Williams

At age 18, I was working as a receptionist/shorthand-typist at Johnson & Johnson and feeling independent, footloose and fancy free. I lived with my family on the South coast of England in Portsmouth, which is a large naval port. Our house overlooked the park that was adjacent to beautiful rock gardens that extended to the sea front. I spent a lot of time on the beach walking my dog or in summer just hanging out. I watched ocean liners heading towards Southampton or back out to sea and thought how exciting it must be to be on a liner sailing to America, the Caribbean, the West Indies, or anywhere for that matter. Portsmouth was nice but faraway places were calling. Shipping lines must need secretaries, what if I got a job with P&O? I scoured the help wanted section of the Sunday London Times until I found an address for P&O and wrote for an application form. Several weeks later I received a letter thanking me for my application, but they regretted to tell me that applicants had to be 21 years old to work for P&O. Would I consider re-applying when I was 21?

In 1960 the British government was still paying passage for people to emigrate to Australia and New Zealand. We had studied both countries in school and I had been particularly drawn to New Zealand. It sounded green, lush, beautiful, and you are never far from the coast. What if I emigrated to New Zealand? I could get there for only £10. I tracked down the address of the New Zealand embassy in London and wrote for the necessary papers. The application forms were numerous and onerous in the detail they required. My parents played it cool when I told them I wanted to go and live in New Zealand, but soon began a subtle campaign of finding other alternatives for their daughter with itchy feet. New Zealand was sounding too far away at a time when travel was very expensive and international telephone calls had to be booked days in advance.

Back to the Sunday London Times and the international help wanted ads. Jobs of all kinds all over the world. I decided to concentrate on America – at least that was closer to England than New Zealand. I pulled out the world atlas to try and find the cities where jobs were available. Most jobs required a two-year contract. What if I ended up living in a city I didn’t like? What if the job did not meet expectations, or the people were not friendly? Two years could be an awfully long time. In spite of my optimism and joie de vivre, those became big ifs.

My father was an anesthetist and was very involved with the care of people who had contracted respiratory polio in the 1950s. He was in charge of the respiratory polio unit for the south coast of England. Through his work he was in touch with Gini Laurie who lived with her husband, Joe, their ten Siamese cats and two Basset Hounds in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Gini was a wonderful lady who lost two siblings in the polio outbreak and ended up dedicating her life to working with the disabled. In one of his letters to Gini and Joe, my father mentioned that his younger daughter had itchy feet, was trying to get a job in America, and did they have any suggestions. They wrote back and graciously offered to sponsor me to come to Chagrin Falls and to help me find a job and get settled. I did not realize until a few years later just how huge an offer that was. I was thrilled, I was going to America! My parents were relieved that Gini and Joe were in the picture and I would not be floundering around on my own.

The paperwork required to emigrate to America was daunting and took months to complete, but eventually my application was submitted, and the wait began. I don’t remember how long it took to process the application but I’m sure it was a fraction of the time it would take today. One day a formal looking envelope arrived in the mail from the American Embassy in London with instructions to come to the Embassy for an interview at a certain time on a certain day. I was so excited; this was the last hurdle in the maze of bureaucracy. Oh, happy day!

With green card safely in hand, I booked a third-class berth on the Queen Elizabeth sailing out of Southampton on October 18, 1962. This was followed by weeks of letters back and forth to Gini and Joe asking endless questions that they patiently answered. Sometimes at night when I was lying awake the fears and doubts would start creeping in and I’d get a little afraid. But in the morning light all was well with the world and my plans continued. One thing I was worried about was what to do with my horse, Martini. I kept him at livery at a stable where I worked in part payment for his keep. I could not afford to keep him there after I left England. I would never sell him, so I had to come up with something. Fortunately, I was able to make arrangements to board him with friends who kept their horses at home.

Leaving the country was a great excuse for all sorts of celebrations, getting together with distant friends, last visits to family members in other parts of England, parties with colleagues and friends, and lingering dates with beau. I packed and re-packed my suitcases and left my job at Johnson & Johnson. I spent my last few days riding Martini and getting him settled in his new home.

October 18th was clear and bright. As I stripped my bed I wondered when I would sleep here again. I had never been away from home or family for more than a month and I pushed back the shadow of fear that niggled the back of my mind. I looked at the clock many times that morning and, like my mother, tried to stay busy. My father came home for lunch. My mother had cooked a lovely meal, but I could not eat very much, I was too on edge. After we did the dishes, I dragged my two suitcases out to the car and managed to stuff them in the boot. I returned to my bedroom and looked around the empty room. I looked at pictures on the chest of drawers of Martini at horse shows, in his stable, rolling in the paddock. I thought of the day I had ridden him to our house, and he had followed me into the kitchen. I was going to miss him.

The drive to Southampton was uneventful but, perhaps not surprisingly, we drove round and round the perimeter of the docks trying to find the right gate. Every time we went to the Southampton docks my father would complain about the lack of signs. Eventually we found the right gate and the right dock, parked the car and hauled my suitcases to the customs shed. With formalities over we stood on the dock a little incredulous at the size of the Queen Elizabeth tied up in her berth only yards away. We watched big cranes loading cars, luggage, and freight. It was amazing how much stuff was disappearing into the holds. There were also several conveyer belts carrying luggage and supplies that disappeared through big openings in the side of the ship. Conversation became harder the longer we stood there and soon my mother said I should probably go aboard and get settled in. Thank goodness for youthful exuberance and lack of awareness of how big this step was that I was taking. We said our goodbyes and I handed my ticket to the good-looking steward standing at the bottom of the gang way. I started up the gang way and turned to give my parents a last wave. My father stood straight and stoic as always, my mother was wiping her eyes with her handkerchief.

Another steward greeted me as I stepped on deck and offered to show me down to the cabin that I was to share with another person. We went down many flights of stairs and each deck we passed was less fancy than the last. The third-class cabins were way in the bottom of the ship, very small and furnished only with two bunks, a small wardrobe, and one drawer for each person. The bathroom was somewhere down the hall. I had to remind myself that this was luxury compared to steerage accommodations in previous years. My luggage had not yet made it to the cabin, so I went back up on deck to see what was going on. I looked for my parents, but they had gone. I imagined the house would feel very empty and quiet after all the activities of previous weeks. While standing at the railing watching the hustle and bustle, a middle-aged American man in a brown polyester suit and loud tie struck up a conversation. He asked so many questions and pretty soon pulled out his wallet and started showing me all his credit cards. Having never seen a credit card before, I was very unimpressed and couldn’t understand why anyone would carry so many bits of plastic around in their wallet. Maybe he was just trying to be friendly, but he was too much for me, so I moved on.

A couple of hours later the sirens sounded and people on shore started to wave as the tugs nudged and pulled the ship out of her birth and we glided out of the harbor into the English Channel. As we passed Portsmouth, I said a silent goodbye. Now it was my turn to be on a liner sailing out to sea, destination New York.

Now that I’m the mother of two 30-somethings, I can appreciate what courage it took for my mother to send her younger daughter off to another continent at age 20. I thank both my parents for their love and support in helping me to achieve my dream of living abroad.

Written in 2007


Thoughts for the Day

The times are urgent; let us slow down
~AFRICAN SAYING

Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.
~FRIDA KAHLO

Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.
~H. JACKSON BROWN JR.

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: May 4, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVIII

Book Review
Audrey Deveney

“Scusi?” How many books have you read since the pandemic started over a year ago? I have lost count.

But, the last one I read will stay with me for quite some time. Inferno by Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, was published in 2013. I haven’t written a book report since grade school, many, many years ago, but I was compelled to tell you about this story.

If you are into Art, a lover of History, and a Traveler, this book brings all that and more and dumps it in your lap for you to savor and be intrigued by. I was exhausted trying to keep pace with the main character, always on the run.

From Florence, Italy and hidden underground tunnels, we run to catch a mad scientist before he can release a plague on the earth to reduce the ever-increasing numbers of the world’s population. A “designer virus” that could not be cured. Does that sound familiar? You did notice when this book was published, 2013. We have now been dealing with the current mutating virus for over a year in 2020-2021.

The plot then moves on to the beauty and history of Venice. Where and when will the plague begin and how? The mystery, the World Health Organization, clues in the epic poem, “The Inferno” written by Dante Alighieri, and every mode of transportation whirl you around and make you dizzy.

Just when you think there couldn’t be more, you end up in an underground cistern beneath Istanbul, and the Hagia Sophia. This airborne pathogen is about to take over the world. It will reduce the population, but how will it stop doing so?

Need I tell you more! There are 461 pages in this book and your mind will feel like it has been on a magic carpet traveling through time and space. If you have not visited any of these cities, you will want to. If you have, it will bring you back to revisit and learn more about what you saw, smelled, and felt when you were there.

Happy travels!

Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
Underground cistern in Istanbul, Turkey

Image
Kristin Frangoulis

I never loved you enough
When you sang in harmony,
A symphony of senses,
Smooth and swift,
Silk and steel,
Afraid of your desires,
Honey and heat.

I judged you with a surgeon’s scalpel
Ripping at you.
You never measured up,
Too short, too tall,
Too fat, too thin,
Too big, too small,
Too blond, too curly,
Too straight, too curvy.

I liked you best
When you cradled my babies in warmth,
In safety,
And blossomed them to life.

Later, you avenged me,
Ravished me with pains,
Broken parts,
Some missing,
Sags and bags,
Lines and droops,
Little in the right places.

Yet, I love you now,
The ruins of you
And our time left.


Spring in Belfast
Barbara Gage

At last! Spring is upon us……as I look outside and walk around Belfast I see the gardens all awakening. Green leaves are popping through the soil….are they plants reseeding themselves from last year? New plants donated by the passing birds? Crabgrass or goutweed or something else as invasive…..what will it be? Popping up its head to welcome the new Spring.

Anticipation….some of my fellow gardeners in town know exactly what is popping up in their gardens! But for me, half the excitement is the anticipation to see whether that little green head will fill out its garden space or need to be pulled out before it crowds out the native plants I have been coaching along from year to year.

Joy! As the flower buds appear at the top of the stems and we watch each day as they get closer and closer to opening up. What will it be? Red tulips? Purple tulips? Onions? Did the poppies survive?

Rainfall…..we pray for rain but here come the black flies following the moisture. Will the brown-tailed moths be out? Where are the ticks? Quick! Get the gardening done and get back in the house before it’s too hot!

Ach….the joys of gardening. Summer is coming and we will have time to pick the flowers…enjoy the birds… and let the symphony ring out all across town as crabapples bloom in the park and lilacs pop along the road and roses bloom along the waterfront. Enjoy it while it’s here.


Thoughts for the Day

We cannot let our ideas blind us to our unknowing
~ JANE HIRSHFIELD

The truth is rarely pure and never simple
~ OSCAR WILDE

Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.
~ MAYA ANGELOU

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: April 29, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVII

The Alewife Are Running
Dave Greeley

Come and see an environmental success story in action
The Alewife are running!
Where?
Go to the Maine Rivers Website and copy the Maine Alewife Trail Map.
When?
Right Now!

Take a drive to one of about 15 listed locations where you will see thousands of 10″ to 12″ Alewife making their way into freshwater lakes. Damariscotta and Benton and Blackman Steam have special events….it’s a party! The run on the Sebasticook River has gone from virtually zero to several million fish making it one of the largest Alewife migrations in the world! It shows that we can restore the environment. Bring your camera, there will be eagles and osprey and others looking for a free lunch.


Spring Through a Window
Jim Owen

Our gaunt apple tree
arms wide to embrace sunlight
no leaves, brown grass.

Green grass near garden
raised beds just potential,
birds sing for partners.

Despite red plumage
cardinals shout in tree tops,
desperate for love.


The Tale Of Galen The Robin
Rebecca Jessup

Once a young robin named Galen returned to his parents’ nest at dusk, looking downcast.

“Mom” he said, “I am not sure I’m ever going to get through this dating and mating season. I stand out there on a branch singing the same 5 or 6 notes over and over and over, just hoping to get some kind of answer. It’s boring! And what’s more it’s demeaning! Chirp, chirp, chirrop, chirrop — again and again and again! I want to break out, improvise, figure out some different melodies!”

“Oh, no, dear! You’ll never find a proper wife that way! Just please, Galen, stick to the tried and true. It worked out wonderfully well for your father and me! We’ve raised, oh, it must be at least twelve fledglings! And every other bird we’ve ever heard of has mated this same way. Just stay with it a little longer.”

Galen hung his head. He couldn’t think of anything more to say, so he flew up to the branch overhead for the night, shaking his beak. This is really getting me down, he thought to himself.

The next morning before sunrise, he flew around in search of a promising perch. Once he landed, he began the same song he’d sung over and over — but after a few bars, he sang a harmony line. That made him laugh. He hopped around a bit, pleased with himself, and then let loose with variations — above and below the melody line, speeding up a few bars, and then slowing the tempo way down. He added some tremolo here, and a little doo-wop there. He was having a wonderful time!

The other male robins around him were confused. A few were angry. Hey, cut that out! squawked one. What in the world kind of bird are you, anyway? shouted another. Galen broke from his singing long enough to say I’m an original! and he went back to improvising joyfully.

Soon he noticed a young female robin watching him steadily from the next tree. Was she smiling? It’s hard to tell, even for other robins. But Galen was having such a good time, he wasn’t going to stop his little concert. The female robin hopped a little closer, still watching him. He continued singing his small heart out.

Presently he realized that a mockingbird was imitating him — or trying. He slowed down and hesitated, to give the other bird a chance to answer. The mockingbird trilled back its imitation. Galen answered a slightly different phrase, and the mockingbird copied him, adding a little chorus at the end. Soon the two birds were singing back and forth, and then together, and the birds around them were either leaving or listening. A thrush and a warbler did their best to join in, but the only tunes they could carry were their own mating calls. Still, they did their best, and added to the sense of fun.

Before the day was over, the female robin was openly flirting with Galen and he was flirting back, and the happy band of singers had agreed to meet every week, to practice and work up their own repertoire of music.


Travels with Maureen O’Keefe

In my travels, figurative and literal, I have enjoyed the hobby of collecting little ironies. One finds them all the time when one starts looking…

A few years ago, I revisited a country where I had lived with my family for five years—Sri Lanka. As I say many times, Sri Lanka is a cross between Hawaii and India. It’s a marvelous place, boasting a civilization that dates back to 500BC, four major religions, fabulous food and crafts, and gorgeous tropical beaches. It’s popular with Europeans, but Americans haven’t really discovered its charms. And the bloody and violent civil war which lasted over 25 years didn’t help.

While we lived there, from 1989 to 1994, the prime Minister was blown up at a nearby intersection, and there were bomb attacks in the capital, Colombo. The civil war was incredibly ruthless and barbaric. Violent stabbings and regular bombings dominated daily life for a quarter of a century.

On this trip, the war was at a climatic pitch, as both sides were ramping up for an end. Even though there was no anti-American fervor, one had to be careful. We headed south from Colombo for a beach weekend near Galle in the south. After settling in at the hotel we walked out towards the road and witnessed something remarkable: A bus, which had been barreling down the road at breakneck speed–leaning due to its overcrowding, suddenly braked to a stop. As we edged closer to get a look we saw the reason. The bus had stopped because a small lizard was crossing the road. Sri Lanka is, after all, a Buddhist country, and all life is sacred.
In 1981 I was the national tennis coach for the country of Jordan. In fact I was their first national tennis coach because the Jordan Tennis Federation had just been formed. I had developed a young team of boys ages 13 to 16, and I worked very hard to develop their tennis game. The Tennis Federation was anxious for the team to travel to Arab matches, so I found myself taking the boys to Iraq for the Arab championships. It happened to be during the Iran/Iraq war and as we were entering Iraqi air space we were asked to close our windows. It was rumored in the plane that we did this so we wouldn’t be shot down. I had a few bad moments wondering why I was there.

But all was well, and we were shown to our dorm rooms at a sports facility outside of Bagdad. They had to scramble to get me a single because they had not realized I was female. But it was taken care of quickly and efficiently. The tournament week went well. My players did well, but of course fell to the experienced players from Morocco and Egypt. However, there was one interesting non-tennis event.

It turns out that Moroccan Arabic is different from Jordanian, Levantine Arabic. In fact, the players couldn’t understand each other. I didn’t speak Arabic, and usually could get along easily with my English. However, my team went out on an outing with the Moroccan team, and I found that the Moroccan coach didn’t speak English. He spoke Arabic, French and Spanish. My decent high school Spanish was actually better than my elementary college French, so we conversed in Spanish on our walk around town. He was a very personable young man of energy and charm. We chatted along amiably and I was pleased that I could carry on a conversation in Spanish.

When we got back to the dorms, he pointed to an empty room and said, “Quiero hacer amor contigo.” I blanched. “Imposible!” He looked surprised. “Eres Muslim?” he asked. “No” I said. “Entonces, Si eres Christian, por que no quiere hacerlo??”

My head was spinning. He thought that since I was a Christian woman I would sleep with him. It was a whole new upside down meaning of the word Christian!
For our second Christmas in Jordan we went with another family to Istanbul. What a fabulous city. I’ve been there three times now and I have to say it has the most splendid, magical skyline of any city I’ve ever seen. Coming from the Middle East it looks nearly European. Yet coming from Europe it looks seductively Middle Eastern. The food is delicious, and inexpensive. There is so much to do and see: Topkapi palace, the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Galata Bridge, the Grand Bazaar—the list goes on and on.

On that first trip in 1981 we tried to fit everything in a few days. We found the Turkish language very difficult, and my husband, a language buff, was trying hard to learn words and phrases in the short time we were there. But “thank you” in Turkish is six syllables long!

Towards the end of our week, we encountered an old man peddling shish kebab skewers at an intersection. He took a hard look at us and said in lovely English, “Buy these wonderful shish kebab skewers, to cook famous Turkish recipes.” My husband, wanting a bit of fun, answered him in French, “je n’pas parler inglais.” Immediately the man answered in beautiful French, describing the skewers as “lifelong souvenirs of Istanbul.” My husband switched to Spanish. The street seller changed to perfect Spanish, his eyes twinkling as he clearly was enjoying himself. Up to a challenge, my husband changed to Arabic. Not to be outdone; the street seller knew Arabic well. So my husband started talking in German, which was no problem for the street seller who answered in fluent and conversational German. Coming to his linguistic limit my husband struggled in halting Russian, and predictably, the kebab seller rattled on in Russian and then some. He stood there and smiled, clearly waiting for the next language. But hubby was done. We had a feeling the Turkish street seller was just getting warmed up.

Of course we bought the skewers!


Thoughts for the Day

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.
~ WENDELL BERRY

In the bigger scheme of things the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.
~ LUCILLE CLIFTON

Compassion springs from the heart, as pure, refreshing water, healing the wounds of life.
~ THICH NHAT HANH

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org