Return

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” 
                                                                        ― Pascal MercierNight Train to Lisbon

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When I was nine years old, my mother received the book I Married Adventure as a monthly book club selection. The zebra-striped cloth cover intrigued me. I opened the book and that began my love affair with Kenya.

Growing up in East Tennessee in the fifties, without much television and no internet,  our world was much more isolated than today.  Reading the book, poring over the pictures of the exotic animals and people of Africa fired my imagination and became part of me.

Fifty years later my two children gave me the surprise of a lifetime with a birthday gift of a two-week safari in Kenya.

I was handed a dream and its reality was better than the dream itself.

  • Arriving at Jomo Kenyetta Airport and climbing into a van with five unknown women, later fast friends known as the African Queens.
  • Crossing a dry river bed going to Amboseli with the snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro in full view
  • First day of game drives producing gazelle, gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, elephants bathing in the Ewaso Nyirio River, cheetah, sleeping lions
  • Sleeping under mosquito netting in a four-postered bed
  • Balloon ride above the Masai Mara, skidding over termite mounds upon landing

Animals, or saving souls, are often the reasons for coming to Africa. For me, it was the opportunity to see exotic animals in their home environment. I returned two more times by the end of 2003 because of the atmosphere and the people.

Now I am going again. The trips before were planned out well in advance with a set itinerary and touring with other people. This time is almost spur of the moment, and less than two weeks stay.  I am going by myself,  staying with Mbuthia, my driver on the other trips, and his family.

I look forward to taking a safari to the place I fell in love with so many years before –Lake Paradise in the Marsabit National Reserve.  I am blessed to be able to complete my circle.

 

 

 

 

Life at it fullest

Today I am living life to it fullest.

I spent time in bed with fresh coffee and the day’s newspaper.

I pulled weeds at a leisurely pace in the warm sun.

I clucked over and watered my zinnias and plants of tomatoes and potential broccoli.

I lost a game of Scrabble online to a very worthy opponent.

I visited a friend at NHC to hear her laughter.

I started searching the internet for an airplane ticket to Kenya.

The above was written a month ago. Perhaps I felt I might jinx myself if I posted before I had my ticket in hand. Leaving in two weeks!!

 

The Invitation by Orian Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to
know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of
meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if
you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your
moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of
your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s
betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from
fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own;
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill
you to the tips of your fingers and toes without
cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the
limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is
true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be
true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of
betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be
faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not
pretty every day. And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and
mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout
to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how
much money you have. I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised
to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the
children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to
be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of
the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you
have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the
inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if
you truly like the company you keep in the empty
moments.

Thank you to Lansing King

Last Memories

IMG_1569-001This is the last photograph of my immediate family. It was made in May of 2001. My brother Lee, on the left was up from Austell, Georgia, and Larry, next to him, came by from Kodak. Our dad and mother and I lived together at the time. As happens, after documenting our group in early years, we hadn’t made one for  years.

Larry died in his sleep the night this picture was taken. It was unexpected and the shock was felt deeply because he was only 62, had not been sick, and was the first of the family to die.

My dad died in 2003 at the age of 94 and my mother in 2008 at the age of 96. Lee and I are the only two left. When talking to Lee recently it dawned on me that when either he or I pass on, there will be no one left with whom to share the exact recollections of our childhood, our upbringing, our family vacations, our steps towards adulthood.

Share what is important to you with kin and friends–write it down, record it, identify pictures. Reminiscing can make you laugh or cry and bring to mind the small as well as important happenings of the past. Memories can bring back a closeness that often has been lost over the years.

Do it while you can.IMG_1586

 

 

 

Baby & Me

IMG_1257 (2)Who would have thunk it? My new part-time job is babysitting with a curly-headed, energetic 13 month old precious Baby Boy.

My children were born in the 60s and my grandchildren in the 90s and the year 2000. Since then most of my exposure to little ones has been oohing over the grandbabies of friends.

After being interviewed by said Baby Boy, his parents, his dog and six cats, I was hired and reported to work the next day. I remembered to not wear jewelry or leave a cup of coffee unattended. I had forgotten the difficulties of interpreting a pointing finger and uuaghh sound.

This child is very, very active. He walks. He climbs higher and higher each day. He explores everything–the pantry, the shelves of collected glassware, the dog’s water bowl when I forget to put it up out of his reach.

He nods his head in time to Christian music and Fruit Loops commercials. He brings me the books of his choice to be looked at as many times as he wants. He rubs both sides of his curly head when he is really, really tired.

That first day, after waving goodbye to mommy, questions flooded my mind. How big a bite can he manage without getting choked? Did his mother say 2 ounces of warm water plus a scoop of formula into the bottle to then be filled with whole milk? Was that a 4 or 6 oz bottle? And one I never figured out with my own–Does he feel cold when I feel cold for him?

Then there is the new paraphernalia in baby land!  It took me three tries to successfully assemble a four-part baby bottle.

Gerber’s oatmeal and banana cereal?IMG_1362 Replaced by Earth’s Best sweet potato cinnamon quinoa, barley & oat pouch, made with flax, unsweetened & unsalted, vegan with no genetically engineered ingredients in non-BPA packaging.

Snacks are dehydrated puffs of fruits and vegetables. No soda crackers or even a goldfish to be seen.Yogurt is common ground in both our diets.

IMG_1287I love that the household includes pets. Chestnut the dog appears to think of himself as the older brother, one who took kindly to a baby and gladly shares toys. He is ecstatic to receive food dropped from the high chair. He howls in sympathy when Baby Boy gets upset.  Callie the Calico       IMG_1249 doesn’t like for Chestnut to get too close to her and emits a hiss every time that happens. I was holding the boy one day. Callie hissed, Chestnut barked, I jumped, baby clutched, I eeked, baby cried.

Many of yesterday’s toys remain favorites–Fisher Price, dump trucks, wooden puzzles and books. New ones have more bells and whistles, movements, and batteries.

FYI:  Barefoot Books, videos found on YouTube can mesmerize a little one.IMG_1388 Franchising merchandise is represented by a Star Wars sanctioned, stuffed, fluffy Chewbaca.

Three weeks into the job and we are both still standing. My muscles and joints have settled back down to their normal ache level. Ibuprofen, a hot shower and sleep are great restoratives.

What causes aggravation is my aging fingers struggling with those snaps on the legs of sleepers and pants. My lord, it takes me as much time to get them lined up correctly and fastened as it does to convince Baby Boy to take a nap.

Being a sitter is somewhat like being a grandparent. The job carries responsibilities but you can leave at the end of your shift happy to pass the torch back to the parents.

I love that at my age I have been given this amazing opportunity to watch a little one develop.IMG_1244

His eyes take in an action and you can almost see his brain turning it over until it is added to his memory bank.IMG_1304

Words are becoming important to him. Momma, Daddy, ba (for bottle), dog, cat, moo are on the tip of his tongue. When was the first time he heard “no” and turned with a measured look to see if you were serious?

His sense of humor shows as he anticipates the last page of the book where he sees himself in a mirror and starts chortling before we get there.

And that smile….which could be why one day I pranced around the kitchen doing a cheer leading routine, using colorful tights for pom poms, with a too small Spidyman cap on my head.