Let us give thanks . . .


Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.


Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.


Autumn blues

I would love to live in a region that has an actual fall season. Autumn begins on the September equinox, which is September 22 this year. Now where I live, it might be 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or it might be 75 degrees on September 22. The same could be true on October 22 as well as November 22. I remember eating Thanksgiving dinner on the picnic table on the patio at my mother-in-law’s house one year when the thermometer registered 84 degrees.

I’m not complaining about the balmy Thanksgiving, and the mild winters are certainly nice when it comes to our heating bills. However, I would dearly love to have more than two weeks of fall, which is about all that we get of my favorite season before we go into winter. For me, autumn is days of crisp 50 and 60 degree temperatures, clear skies, the smells of falling leaves, the sounds of Canada geese. There is no other smell quite like the smell of fall, and the night sky in the fall is incomparable to any other sky at any other time of the year.

I suppose I love fall so much because I have spent fall in the mountains, and it spoils you. A full season of light sweater weather before you really need an outer coat, and then bundling up at night beneath a quilt. Bonfires on the weekends. Hot chocolate. Camping outdoors before it becomes too cold to do so. Looking up at a sky so full of stars that you have a real sense of how endless the universe truly is. And then the beauty of the changing leaves-golds, ambers, and reds so intense that mother earth’s palette comes alive like a magnificent Caravaggio portrait, an odd reversal of masterpieces. 
So perhaps you can understand my disappointment at living in an area in which people run their air conditioners well into October. Students wear shorts and flip flops everyday, and then suddenly, they are in jeans, boots, and sweaters for the duration, until the two weeks of spring before summer sets in.

It is an odd place to live, as extreme in its weather as it is in its populace and its politics. But for all of that, I don’t know that I would survive in an area that has a real winter, which is the trade off for a real fall. I like one or two snowfalls, but I hate the bitter cold. I don’t think that I would like to live up north where you have to defrost your car for five minutes before you can go anywhere in the morning. I’ve been too spoiled by my temperate winters.

Ideally, I would like to live in a place that gets no colder than 50 degrees, maybe 45, and no hotter than 80. It should be near the water, and within driving distance of the mountains. Not a big city, but not a small town unless it’s a college town. Do places like this even exist anywhere in the world, and if they do, can I go there with my brood in tow?