Ode to Home

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In this time of Corona, spending this much time at home is a revelation. I love my home and garden and neighbors and neighborhood. I feel so blessed to have landed here. It is possible that all of my travels informed my choices subconsciously. I am so happy to be at home. I just read this in The Little Bookshop at Big Stone Gap, and it resonated.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

Where the race of men go by–

The men who are good and the men who are bad,

As good and as bad as I.

I would not sit in the scorner’s seat

Nor hurl the cynic’s ban–

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

and be a friend to man.

-Sam Foss “The House by the Side of the Road,” from Dreams in Homespun.

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From my front porch I watch the world go by and interact with my neighbors from a safe physical distance. We can care for one another, check in daily, and I know that I am also seen. The energy that I use to interact with strangers when I travel, I am now spending to get to know my neighbors at a deeper level. It feels good and we enjoy a stronger community as we all expand our circle of caring.

Lights! Camera! World Penguin Day

Wellington the Rockhopper penguin made me a fan of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois. I’ve not visited yet and they are officially closed until April 30, 2020. Let’s face it. None of us know when they might be able to reopen and when we might be able to travel to Chicago to visit. Nevertheless, I’ve started following them on Instagram @shedd_aquarium. And my favorite posts feature their penguins going on outings into the aquarium interiors and outside on the steps. When I do finally make it to Shedd I am going to buy a ticket to enjoy the Penguin Experience.

There are other penguin cams available around the world. Celebrate World Penguin Day by checking out one or more of these. Then do something to reduce your use of plastic. Eat only fish approved by Seafood Watch.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Penguin Cam

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach CA Penguin Cam

San Diego Zoo Penguin Cam

Vancouver Aquarium Penguin Cam

Tennessee Aquarium Penguin Rock Cam (seems a little crowded!)

 

2020 a Year Like No Other

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This photo with Jens Voigt was taken in May 2017 at the Tour of California. The US’ premier bike race has now been suspended indefinitely. This week long event was struggling financially and Corona was the last straw. Sacramento will be poorer for not seeing a race segment. 

Sometimes this Corona season seems like a weird tear in the time space continuum. Then something happens that makes it feel so much more real. Like when the NBA cancelled the season. So when I read this morning’s sports headline, “Tour de France cancelled” I again felt “this shit is real.” Because when the greedy managers of the Tour de France who faithfully put profit before cyclist safety decide to cancel for 2020, the pandemic must be super serious.

And of course it is super serious. Not that we have to lose our sense of humor. There are plenty of people making YouTube videos that provide the lighter side. Britain is ahead on this front. They may not be exemplary on their COVID response but who would not smile at The Sound of a Pandemic?  They need some cheer: the Royal Horticulture Society’s Chelsea Flower Show normally scheduled for mid-May has officially been cancelled (but may be going virtual–watch this space.)

For all of us who live through this, we will immediately remember this COVID experience when we see the *asterisk on lists of event winners in the competitions we love to participate in or watch. Hopefully it will help us appreciate a new normal one day and not take the things we love for granted.

Meanwhile I am traveling in my imagination through fiction and memoir. Or creating my own urban garden oasis while binging on the Britbox Chelsea Flower Show coverage of 2019.  Maybe you will be racing your own Tour de Peloton. Those of us lucky to have a secure home and some income, we can plan adventures for beyond Corona. And open our pocketbooks to give something to those hurting from the economic downturn or who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID now.

Take care of yourself.

 

Planning Future Travel in COVID-19 Season

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All photos in this post by Marcos Dolislager

I was talking to my son, who is an even more avid traveler than me, and he remarked that one silver lining of this trial by virus is the travel deals that will be available when the travel bans are lifted. I couldn’t share his enthusiasm. This time at home has given me time to consider my motives for travel and to evaluate my priorities.

I am blessed that I have been to almost every continent and I’ve ticked most boxes of places I want to see. As I tally the cost in terms of climate change and personal finances, I’m no longer as interested in travel just to experience new places. I am more interest in travel as a way of spending time with people I love. I especially look forward to traveling with my grandson.

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Having said that, I received an email from TSA PreCheck letting me know I need to renew my membership before the end of June. I starred the email and thought about it for 24 hours. It is a no-brainer really. I am going to travel as soon as this COVID-19 season is over. So I just paid my $85 as a down payment on my hopes and dreams for future travel.

We will all get through this together. Right now it means staying home and taking care of ourselves, our families and our neighbors. For as long as it takes.

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My son-in-law works for Southwest airlines. He still has a job but we are all a little worried. He provided me these beautiful photos. The travel sector got a gut punch from COVID-19, so I will put a little money by each month so I can reinvest in airline tickets, hotel reservations and dining out as soon as public health officials and Governor Newsom give me the all clear. I was meant to go to Virginia to celebrate a friend’s graduation in May. The graduation has been cancelled, and the trip cannot be rescheduled yet. But when I can, I will pack my Away bag, fly Southwest to BWI, take the MARC train to Union Station and meet up with my friend Carole for dinner. It will be great.

 

Self-Isolation Play List Recalls Travels

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_16ceI enjoy a weekly podcast of BBC Desert Island Discs. I just finished the Daniel Radcliffe episode. I’ve also noticed that the some people are creating self-isolation playlists and sharing on Instagram. Satellite Sister Lian Dolan created two with the themes of survival. We may as well have fun with it while we are waiting and looking out for one another by staying home.

I haven’t created a playlist since I dropped my youngest child off at UC Santa Cruz. And I don’t listen to as much music as I once did. So when I imagine being interviewed by the BBC presenter on Desert Island Discs, I think of the songs inspired by my travels.

My first big trip outside the United States was to Catrine in Ayrshire with Teen Missions when I was 16 years old. I came home at the end of the summer and discovered that My Sharona by the band The Knack had completely taken over the airwaves. My high school pep squad and student body adapted it to our school name, “La-Si-er-ra” and yet I had not heard it once! While I was in Scotland we sang a lot of Christian songs but weren’t allowed to listen to the radio; however, I did develop a real soft spot for bagpipe music and all things Scottish. Later I fell hard for the twins from Edinburgh, The Proclaimers. I have every album recorded by Charlie and Craig Reid and the disc I want in my COVID shelter in place is The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues.

My next travel adventure was to study summer school in Cambridge, England. First my then husband and I drove around England, Wales and Scotland. I loved Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home, and was bummed to find out that it didn’t reach the same popularity in America.

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I didn’t travel much while I raised my children–annual trips to Yosemite were more the norm. So when I was newly divorced I gave solo travel a go. Except air travel to meet up with a friend or group, I had not had complete control of an itinerary before and the rebel in me loved it. I chose London and Dublin for my first solo foray and I fell hard for Ireland.  That trip I was mad for Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.  (And for the record, I apologize for linking to some truly bad videos.)

Within a few years I was semi-regularly volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Northern Ireland in Belfast. I even marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick. There were many songs that I enjoyed singing as we enjoyed the culture in NorIreland. On one of my last trips a young builder who was apprenticing at the site shared with me his favorite song at the time: Voodoo Child by the Rogue Traders.

I discovered New Zealand through Habitat for Humanity as well. I met a group of Kiwis on a Jimmy Carter Build in Cambodia and the next year led a team to Wellington, New Zealand. Music was a big part of the build and I discovered Brooke Fraser. One of my favorite songs is Something in the Water.

I have returned many times to New Zealand and I like many other Kiwi artists besides the obvious–the phenomenal Lorde. I was briefly obsessed with Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep. I have memories connected with the New Zealand National Anthem and the Rugby Union theme song for the Rugby World Cup, World in Union. Sometimes I would discover a song on Kiwi road trips that was a hit in New Zealand but not yet in the United States, such as Glad You Came by The Wanted.

The biggest connection with a song on any of my adventures was summer of 2014 when I followed the Tour de France from Yorkshire to Paris. For part of the tour I joined a Thomson spectator tour in the Alps. Our bus driver had a great playlist including Enrique Inglesias’ Bailando. If I only could take one song to my desert island it would be this one.

Working at home all day and then spending all evening at home is not quite as isolating as being stranded on a desert island. I have Facetime with my grandson and daughter and phone calls and texts with colleagues and friends. Still, there is a growing sense of the end of the world as we know it.  Just as 9/11 ushered in a different set of priorities, so too will this pandemic.

 

 

 

Gotta Eat Pi(e) Today

IMG-4032.JPGIt is Saturday 3.14 so you have time to either make a pie or find a pie shop and, most importantly, eat pie! I don’t need an excuse and I’ve been baking and enjoying eating pie at specialty bakeries.

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My Key Lime Pie

I gave a pie coupon to a friend and she hinted that when Lent is over she’d like a key lime pie. I’ve never made one so I searched for a recipe. Decided to try Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe with macadamia nuts in the graham cracker crust. The pie itself has just three ingredients: lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and 4 egg yolks. I shared it with my neighbors over dinner and it was intensely sweet and sour. Yum.

If you are in Humboldt County, proceed to Bittersweet/Slice of Humboldt Pie a pie and cider shop in Arcata, California. I had a delicious salad so I could eat the peanut butter pie (with chocolate bottom layer) for dessert. My friends enjoyed a chicken pot pie and the chocolate bottomed banana cream pie and the apple pie. Yum, yum, yum, yum!

IMG-1115.jpgIf you are in Sacramento, there is a new pie shop in Carmichael (a suburb of Sacramento) called I (heart) Pie. Mom and I checked it out. They just serve pie and coffee or tea. The website suggested they might offer other food so we had to reroute to Rubios for lunch and then try the coconut cream pie. Yum! The shop had just been profiled in the local paper so many options were sold out. They bake 8 inch pies and normally serve in quarters. We bought a whole pie and asked them to cut by six slices so Mom and I could enjoy a slice each and she could take the rest home to share with friends. Everyone wins.

Friends, go out there and eat some pie!

 

Loving Dick Taylor Chocolate

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Dick Taylor Chocolate at 4 West 4th Street

Funny coincidences happen. I was preparing for a trip to the north coast near Eureka, California and I listened to an episode of Teaching Your Brain to Knit podcast and they extolled the enjoyment of touring the Dick Taylor chocolate factory in Eureka. Then I checked in with my friends the Watloves as to any plans, and Harriet mentioned that Brian wanted to take us all to tour of Dick Taylor Chocolate. A few days later we found ourselves at said premises. There were no tours available but plenty of chocolate to taste.

IMG_1166.jpegWe tried the drinking chocolate, which was so rich that the sample quite satisfied. One of the salespeople gave us an extensive explanation of how chocolate is produced. I’ve been to the Cadbury factory in Dunedin, NZ and the process is very similar. The main difference is one of scale. As a chocoholic I didn’t mind listening to the magic of how the humble cocoa bean becomes delicious.

All that was left was to shop. They ship for free to anywhere in the USA if you purchase $25 or more of chocolate.

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Arts and Drafts lounge at 422 First Street, Eureka, California

We were in Old Town Eureka so it was easy to proceed to Arts and Drafts where you can do crafts while you enjoy a beer. Or to my favorite print shop and stationary store, Just My Type Letterpress.

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Old Town Eureka mural

Crocker Art Family Adventures

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Sometimes it is the simple things like a fun salt and pepper set that fascinate a 3 year old.

Crocker Art Museum in downtown Sacramento is one of the adventures my grandson and I enjoy together. We started visiting when Cal just started walking, and he loved going up and down the stairwells and walking along the long corridors. He was afraid of the elevators but loved looking at the sculptures and glass sculptures in the stairwells. The museum is a quirky mix of old mansion and new museum connected by long ramps–perfect for toddler legs to run along. Now he confidently explores all parts of the museum.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2becTot Land on the ground floor of the old mansion is always a popular stop. There are a number of structures and activities to keep people under 5 busy. Over the years there have been additional exhibits for kids and by kids. There are also art programs for Wee Wednesdays (ages 3-5) and Artful Tots (19-36 months)–check the calendar for specific dates.

If your child guests are older than 5, you may want to use the Story Trail books available at the admission desk to go on a museum art scavenger hunt.

The cafe has a variety of foods. We bring our own kid snacks and I get a beverage or light snack and relax (briefly) in the light filled dining space.

It is worth a membership to make more frequent trips easy. Then if you are having a fussy day, you don’t worry about a short visit. If you are trying it out for the first time, your visit is free for children under 5, and costs youth to 17 $6, seniors and students $8, and adults $12. Your entrance is good all day and it is walking distance to Old Sacramento, so you may combine your activities.

Happy Birthday Rosa Parks

Rosa ParksToday is the Rosa Parks birthday and the day we celebrate her tremendous contribution to liberty and freedom in the United States. Her humility and bravery are an example to people struggling for dignity and human rights around the world.

I was reminded of the importance of knowing her whole story by a TED Talk by David Ikard (also a podcast on TED Talks Daily 2/3/20). Professor David Ikard recommends reading Rosa Park’s autobiography, and I purchased it this morning from Powells. She is much more interesting than the abridged version usually told in the 30 seconds we generally give history.

The Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama is also a must see.

Happy Birthday Rosa Parks.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Penguins

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Today most Americans are observing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. It is also Penguin Awareness Day and at first glance there seems to be no connection. There is a through line between the justice Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed his life to achieve and the existential threat facing penguins. Allow me to make my case.

I have a new travel guide for creating your own civil rights crawl in Alabama. It explains how Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher’s son from Atlanta. He married Coretta Scott, who was from Marion, Alabama and he was the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery when he became politically active. You can visit the church parsonage and learn more about his early adult life. You can see the bomb damage on the porch from an explosive (no one was injured, thankfully).

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2a7cYou can also travel to the the Safe House Museum in Greensboro, Alabama and learn about an incident when the black community members kept Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hidden while the Klu Klux Klan terrorized their neighborhood looking for King. This was just a few months before he was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee. At this time in his career King was preaching about the need to address poverty and structural economic inequity. Just as old testament prophets were not popular, King and his message were unpopular. He was asking people to look beyond the gross injustice of sheriff’s with dogs and fire hoses to see the injustice we are all complicit with everyday in our economic interactions, which are shaped by our laws and regulations–all within our power to change.

The “march continues” as long as we continue to ignore the ways in which we externalize the real cost of our choices. There is a terrific interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewing Bryan Stevenson about the Legacy Museum. You can listen to it as a podcast or on the website (1/20/2020). The Legacy Museum, featured in the travel guide, helps visitors to interact with the horrific human rights violations that happened during slavery, afterward as Jim Crow laws were solidified, and then with mass  Alabama is celebrating Martin Luther King/Robert E. Lee Day today, so there is still a dialogue needed.

“Until we reckon with history we are not going to get free. I actually think we need an era of truth and justice in this country; we need to have truth and reconciliation; we need to have truth and restoration. And it’s not because I want to punish America that I want to talk about these things. I actually want us to be liberated. I want to get to a better place. I think there’s something better that’s waiting for us that we can’t get to until we have the courage to talk honestly about our past.” Bryan Stevenson, Fresh Air, 1/20/20 (around 28:00)

The climate crisis is similar in that we externalize the real cost of our choices. Someone else, usually someone poorer than me, pays the price for my lifestyle. I drove to pick up my mail today and the fossil fuel in my gas tank contributed to the global warming that is increasing the intensity of fires in Australia, warming the ocean and making it more difficult for penguins to find food. I have a bumper sticker that says I love Penguins, and I have done so little to curb my own greenhouse gas emissions.

And yet penguins continue to make us smile and to live their quietly heroic lives.

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Whatever you may have heard of the The Green New Deal, it is rightly linking the need for  a whole sale change in how we power our economy and social justice. I hope we have the vision in 2020 to elect new leaders and write new policies that give us and penguins a shot at a livable future.