We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Posts tagged Mary


Spring                                                                             Planting Moon

Good news.  I can pick up the bees tomorrow.  That makes today a good bit more manageable.  I’ll pick them up, go see John Desteian about getting lost on my way to seminary or college (dreams), take them home, spray them with sugar water and hive them on Tuesday when it’s warmer and not rainy.  A better deal all round.

(In case you were wondering, this is a package of bees.  A 2 pounder. You can get 3 pounders as well.  About 7,000 bees.)

Had a Skype visit with the sibs in far away places, the desert and the tropics.  Yesterday evening I sent Mary an e-mail saying yes, I could call this morning.  She had just started her day.  I read a bit, then went to bed, woke up, fed the dogs, ate breakfast, went downstairs and called her at her bedtime, 9:30 pm.  Mark was at 4:30 pm.  While I slept, both of them finished work days.  Seems strange to me even though we do it regularly.

Just to change things up a bit, it’s raining today.  Don’t want to get into a rut precipitation wise.  Should turn into snow later on though.  Global weirding.  Indeed.

Video Phone a Reality At Last!

Spring                                                            Bee Hiving Moon

Technological victory today.  Mary (Singapore at 10:00pm), Mark (Ha’il, Saudi Arabia at 5:00 pm) and myself (Andover 9 am) on the same video call.  Three little screens with our talking heads beaming in real time (or whatever you call time in the instance where all of us are in different times).  Skype premium at $99.00 a year allows for up to ten individuals on one call with no additional charge.  Even when separated by thousands of miles and the International Date Line.

(screen looks something like the pic above)

That was my entire nuclear family on one video call.  Remember when video-phones were sci-fi what ifs?  Not any more.  And, there’s no phone.  Nothing but net.

Over the last year Mark and Mary and I have moved closer together, seeing each other in person last July and now communicating more regularly than we ever have before.

Mark describes Ha’il as like northern Arizona, Flagstaff/Dine homelands/Grand Canyon/polygamist Mormon country.  Come to think of it Islam allows 4 wives.  Maybe it’s the weather?

Mary says Singapore is hot.  When asked how hot, she said, “Oh, I never know.  But it’s really hot.  I know that.”  According to Weatherunderground the current temp in Singapore is 81 with a dewpoint of 77.  That last is the kicker.  By contrast it’s 84 in Ha’il with a dewpoint of 14.  Just to be complete it’s 54 here with a dewpoint of  48.   Of course that’s a daytime reading for Andover, a night time reading for Singapore and an early evening reading for Ha’il.

Both Mary and Mark are at the ends of their terms, with exams and grading and all that fun stuff on the other end of the teacher-student relationship.  Mark has a classroom full of cement workers.  Mary teaches students at Singapore’s National Teacher’s University.   Mom would have been proud.

Forgot to mention on the call, but I have a tour for ESL students tomorrow.  Both Mary and Mark have ESL backgrounds.

A Third of the World Between Sibs

Winter(?)                                  First Moon of the New Year

Both sibs have sent photographs recently.  Mary has taken several pictures of elephants in a series placed around Singapore.  They’re part of a fund-raiser to help Southeast Asian elephants.

Mary lives within short walking distance of the Botanical Gardens of Singapore, a delightful collection of Southeast Asian plants placed on large grounds.  In fact, she used to work there when her university had its campus on the grounds.

The fund-raiser reminded me of the Charles Schultz cartoon characters St. Paul had up a few years back.

Singapore is an unusual place, a city-state like days of yore, think Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Rome, Venice.  It refers to itself as the air-conditioned nation.  Mary refers to it as Asia-lite.  I enjoyed my visit there a great deal.

Mark, on the other hand, is in a much less humid environment, Saudi Arabia.  He is in his fourth month teaching English in Ha’il, a former caravan serai on the pilgrimage route to Mecca.  It sits in the northern third of the Arabian Peninsula, near the center and has some elevation, about 3,000 feet.

He has settled in there, having taken trips into the desert three times over the last couple of months.  The first time he went dune bashing in motorized vehicles. The second time he  visited a camel breeding operation run by a student, black camels, and in his most recent foray wandered the desert where this photography was taken.

That puts me in the heart of the North American continent, Mary at the tip end of the Malaysian Peninsula, near Indonesia and Mark in the sands of storied Arabia.  That must be about a third of the way around the world to each sibling.


Annual Report to Humanity: 2011

Winter                                       New Moon of the New Year

Consider this our annual report to the board of directors of humanity.

We spent a week in Denver in mid-January attending the Great Western Stock Show with the grandkids, Ruth and Gabe.

That’s Gabe on the left and Ruth on the right.

A year of transitions.  As all years are, of course, but some major ones came our way.  Kate retired from full-time practice in January and we celebrated with a big party at the Art Institute.  Lots of folks attended and Kate showed off her various talents useful outside the exam room.


In late March, early April we got the two Denver dogs, Sollie and Gertie.  Jon and Jen had begun a big remodel (see right pic) adding lots of space and the dogs would have been underfoot.

In April we got a distress call from Thailand.  Brother Mark needed a place to crash for a while he got his life back together after leaving a job in Bangkok. I picked him up at MSP a week later.

Mark stayed with us over the summer, helping out with gardening chores and learning how to live with our six dogs.  Four of ours with the Denver supplement.

In early May we installed three packages of bees in Katy Did-It woodenware.  Tom and Roxann came out for the morning to watch.  Later in May we planted our garden anew, uncovered the garlic and the asparagus and settled in for another growing season.

In June Kate had the second hip replaced using Mark Heller’s minimally invasive technique.  As usual, she weathered the difficulties with aplomb and got up and moving about well before our guests came in July.

In mid-summer we had an unusual confluence of visitors.  My cousin Diane (left with Joseph), who lives in San Francisco and was my best woman when I married Kate, decided to stop off at our house on her way to her sister’s in Kalamazoo. (Great name, Kalamazoo)  Sister Mary happened to be on her way to the States from Singapore for a visit.  Joseph had just finished a long deployment in Bahrain.

So.  We got everybody here.  The first time Mary(below with her back to the camera), Mark and I had been in the same place since, gosh I don’t know.  Maybe the late 60’s?  It meant I had my whole nuclear family here at home.  A great feeling.  A moment difficult to repeat with the very global spread of our few members.

Mark worked hard all August at job hunting in the worst job market since, gosh I don’t know.  He ended up with job offers, both in his field of teaching English as a second language and both in Saudi Arabia.  Just as the Arabic spring had begun to blossom.

He accepted and moved to Ha’il, Saudi Arabia in October.

Both grandkids started school in September, Ruth in kindergarten and Gabe in a special pre-school.  We visit them over Skype once a week and one or both of us is out there once a quarter. [We go next on January 13th for what has become an annual visit to the Great Western Stock Show.]

(Mark, Kate, me, Joseph)

Over the summer we added mulch, weeded, harvested, tended our garden.  In early September we harvested honey from two colonies of bees, a sticky, messy affair made notable this year by my decision to try a quick return of wet honey frames to a colony without benefit of veil.  Hmmm.  Thirty or forty stings and much use of the language God gave us to express ourselves while in pain thanks to something stupid we’ve done later my head calmed down.

Kate smoked my head. (keeps other bees from swarming after the attack pheromones)  She told me to get in the shower with my head under cold water.  And she gave me benadryl and prednisone. This was my most memorable moment of the year.

Joseph spent most of September and early October on deployment (again), this time stationed on Crete.  He managed military aircraft over Libya during the campaign to oust Quaddafi and support the revolutionaries.  As a result, he became one of a handful in his career field, air battle management, to have actually managed aircraft in combat.

In mid-October we drove the dogs over to Armstrong Kennels, went to MSP, flew to New York City and took a town car to dock 89, boarded the MSS Veendam and sailed away for a 40 day vacation celebrating Kate’s retirement. (thank you, Merton.)

Lots of memorable times on the trip.  Feeding leftover steak to street dogs in Santa Marta, Colombia.  Transiting the  Panama Canal.  Crossing the equator.  Seeing the archaeological legacy of Peru, riding a funicular in Valparaiso, spending time in the wonderful archipelagos of the Chilean fjords, visiting the southern most city in the Americas, going to the Falkland Islands and seeing those awfully damned cute rock hopper penguins, eating a wonderful hunk of tenderloin in Montevideo and walking the beaches of Rio.  Much to write home about.

We ate Thanksgiving dinner, two empanades and two chunks of Brazilian cheese bread, in our gate area at the Rio International Airport waiting for our plane to Atlanta.

Since then, Joseph has invited a dog into his home, Kepler, whom I showed here not long ago.  On the 28th he goes to Romania to stay at Nicoletta’s house.  He met Nicoletta on Crete while deployed to Libya.

Meeting the family in a foreign environment where he does not speak the language (he’s learning some though) of Nicoletta’s mother and father is a challenge, but one he anticipates with surprising (to me) relish.  She will move to Georgia in January to see how things might go with them together.

Fingers crossed here.

The end of the year is upon us now with today Christmas Eve and a week from now New Year’s Eve.  To all of you I wish a good night and very happy New Year.

(me as Carlito, dressed as a gaucho)

Overseas Ellises

Samain                               Moon of the Winter Solstice

Brother Mark has settled in to Ha’il.  So much so that he visited, by their invitation, a group of cyberjournalists who run an online newspaper where he participated in an interview, drank tea, then left after shaking everyone’s hand, apparently a cultural expectation.  He says he has three photos and a youtube clip as a result of the visit, though I’ve not found them yet.

Sister Mary sent these cute clips of elephants in the air-conditioned nation.

They’re part of a fund-raiser to support elephants in Southeast Asia.

Family. Dispersed.

Fall                                                    Waxing Autumn Moon

A gorgeous fall day.  And I’ve spent it inside, decompressing.  6 months with a guest in the house, no matter which guest, is a long term disruption for these two introverts.  We’re both glad Mark came and are proud of what he accomplished while he was here, but we’re also both glad to have our house back to two humans, four dogs and a gazillion plants.

Mark helped out a lot in the garden and around in the yard, so we’ll miss his strength.  He was also well-versed in geo-political affairs, a habit we both got from our father, a newspaperman.  Good conversations there.

He also knew our family well, on both sides.  He was, too, a lost brother, in a sense, come home.  Blending ourselves together as a contemporary family was not always easy, but whoever said family was easy.

As of tomorrow we’ll have Mary in Singapore, Mark in Saudi Arabia and Joseph in Georgia, Jon and Jen and Ruth and Gabe in Denver and our home here in Minnesota.  This is about as spread out as a family can get geographically.  We’ll use skype and e-mail to stay in touch.

Visa, Visa. Where Art Thou?

Lughnasa                                          Waxing Harvest Moon

Oh.  Visas.  I think I shall never see a visa lovely as a tree.  Or something like that.  Anyhow, the Saudi visa saga took an unexpected and unpleasant turn this morning.  Turns out there are two steps to the process for teachers, certification of the degree and qualifications, then, the visa process itself.  This introduces more days, perhaps as much as a week more.

We’ll find out tomorrow how the school takes this news.  I’m not sure why the school didn’t alert us to this fix since the Saudi visa process is the same the world over, but they provided no help at all.  In fact, we’re still down one vital piece of paper, something from the Saudi Foreign Ministry inviting Mark to Saudi, a piece of paper the school was responsible to produce.

Dispiriting.  Mark and I had a heated conversation about the appropriateness of my way of addressing the school’s administrator in an e-mail.  Mark felt my wording was rude, boorish.  American.  To my ear the e-mail had nothing unpleasant or confrontational in it at all.  Mark says I don’t understand and he can’t explain it to me.

Well, maybe.  He and Mary both have a keen sensitivity to Asian cultures and their ways are not our ways.  I’ve only visited and studied Asia, not immersed myself in it as they have over the last 20+ years.  Of course, their knowledge is better than mine.

Even so, I believe Saudi culture different from Southeast Asian and enough so that whatever slight Mark felt I might have delivered will not be felt there.  We’ll see tomorrow.

He certainly has a broader and more direct experience of world cultures than I do.  If he turns out more right, I’ll have learned yet another lesson from life.  If I turn out more right, he will have learned one.


Lughnasa                                                  Waxing Harvest Moon

As August slides away and the sky shifts its colors toward deeper hues, an inner barometer detects higher emotional pressures.  The atmosphere weighs more, cuing those momentary pauses, breaks in attention.  It may signal a storm ahead, but more likely the prediction carries gray skies and mist, perhaps early morning fog.

Melancholy comes calling this time of year, an acquaintance, maybe a friend, of long standing.  Mom died in October, 1964, 47 years ago, a year longer than she lived.

Her death came at different moments in life for all of us.  Mark, 5 at her death, has few memories of her; she lingers in his past as a faint spirit, an enigma.  Mary, 12, has more, a young girl heading into adolescence, becoming a woman, missed the guidance a mature woman could give as she made that critical transition.  At 17 my life had already begun to pull away from the family, in my senior year of high school, the last, college plans in the making, I had her longest of all, only a brief time less than Dad.

When that dark angel comes, and he comes for us all, finality is the hardest lesson to absorb.  No more mom.  No more.  Memories, yes, but memories fade and change as life goes on and here all three of us are, 47 years later.  47 years.  A lifetime.

Why a friend?  How could melancholy be a friend?  Well, in this way.  As life patters on, this event following the other, we can become accustomed to its rhythms, lost in its small decisions and its casual absorption of our energy.  So lost, in fact, that we forget the Self that carries us forward, the Self into which we live and which lives itself into us.

Melancholy can turn us away from the day to day and cause us again to walk down the stairs leading to what Ira Progoff calls the Inner Cathedral.  We often forget this quiet place within, our own sanctuary, and melancholy can call us to visit it again.

So, yes, melancholy can be a friend of the Self, a guide back into the depths and resources of your Self.

A Calmer Week Ahead

Mid-Summer                                                                        New Honey Extraction Moon

Kate and I bought a new vehicle yesterday, a Toyota Rav-4.  Well, we picked out the things we wanted, left a deposit and now wait for the finding.  This may not be big news in most families, but the last time we bought a new vehicle was 1999 and before that it was 1994.  Until Wednesday we still had both of them.  The Tundra, the 1999 purchase, fell thanks to an oil-pressure hose providing cooling to the transmission.  It blew, taking with it other essential fluids, the engine and the transmission.  Bad luck.  The Celica motors on, at its next oil change it will hit 275,000 miles.  Toyota’s last and that’s what I want, have always wanted, in a car.

Our life has coasted back to a familiar routine from the intense clay week followed by the intense family week.  Both were good, positive experiences, but there are reasons these events last short periods of time and the calmer times last longer.

Got a note from Mary, safely back in Singapore, who observed that international travel was easier than intra-US.  She had a variety of air-related mishaps in her two weeks plus of traveling the US by plane.

Kate and I need to spend time in our gardens, two weeks away from them at this time of year leaves weeds as happy as the plants we want 400_honey-extraction_0244there.  Also, the tomatoes have begun to ripen, peas have played out for now, though I’ll probably plant a fall crop, the beets have begun to fatten up (second planting), carrots, too.  Chard and spinach look good and they, too, need replanting for fall harvest.

August will find us once again with the honey extractor set up, frames to uncap and jars to fill.  Mark Odegard has begun work on the 2011 version of the Artemis Honey label.  His first efforts looked good to me, but he’s a skilled professional and keeps adjusting, trying new things.  We’ll try this year to uninvite the bees to the extracting party.  They become a big bother, not appreciating the heist of their summer’s work.  Who can blame them?  Though, I should add, they put up a surplus well beyond what their winter survival requires.   That’s why bee-keeping works in the first place.

Northstar Stories

Mid-Summer                                                                                  Waning Honey Flow Moon

Big fun yesterday.  My first ride on the Northstar rail saw Kate, Mary and me up at 7:00 am to catch the train into town.  Mary and I bought our tickets, $4 for her and $8 for me round-trip, boarded and rode in air-conditioned comfort on the BNSF rails through the industrial parts of Coon Rapids, Fridley and Columbia Heights, then into the huge train yard just outside the Minneapolis city limits with sea going containers stacked on one side and made up trains waiting for engines on the other.  Entering Minneapolis through the Northeast industrial area, I saw the city from a perspective unfamiliar to me, felt like I was in a new place altogether.  We crossed over Nicollet Island, running north of its small residential community which includes two house-boats moored on the west side of the island.  We wound behind Deja Vu, parking ramps and Minkadha Storage, then into the transit station attached to the new Twins Stadium.

Up an escalator and Mary and I connected with the Hiawatha Light Rail which we took to the Nicollet Avenue stop.  We had breakfast in the IDS, chatting about her trip to Singapore, some 21 hours or so in the air and half-way around the world, this time through Heathrow where she boards a non-stop flight to the Air-Conditioned Nation, family matters and her work in the upcoming year on a high-stakes test for teacher candidates hoping for entrance to the teacher’s university where Mary works.

After breakfast we went out the east entrance of the IDS, Mary turning left for the Hiawatha Line and the airport, myself right headed for the MIA.  I co-ordinated a tour in the am, only6502011-07-26_0999 four groups showed and I had no one to tour.  Joseph came along and we went over to Matt’s for a juicy lucy, a ritual we’ve followed since he was 4 or 5 years old.  He’s a man, a particular person with serious ink on his left arm now:  Siva, Brahma and Vishnu, a 3/4 sleeve the tattoo folks call it.

Joseph returned me to the MIA where I did a tour for some folks from an assisted living facility.  We saw Native American pieces, the Connecticut room, the Charleston room and George Washington.

Leaving the museum, I walked back to the Light Rail, about 45 minutes, boarded it, went to the Northstar station and boarded the 3:57 bound for Anoka and a 4:22 arrival.  At least that’s what it said on the train schedule.  We didn’t arrive until 5:30 pm.

Just past the Fridley station and only a few hundred over a bridge where a freight train derailed a couple of weeks ago (a crumpled tank car still stood beside the bridge abutments) we glided to a stop.

The conductor came on and announced, “We’re going to try to restart our engines.”  Hmmm.  Seems to me restarting the engines would be something you’d have figured out from the beginning.  Not so.  We even had a mechanic on-board.  It began to get close in the car because the windows don’t open and the a-c went with the engine.

After a bit, lights and a-c returned.  “We have one engine started.”  That seemed promising.  About ten minutes later it died again.  The second engine never began to run.

The conductor again, “The masterminds are trying to figure out what to do.”  Oh.  Good.  The same ones who bought the engines that no one knows how to restart?

Finally, the next train, coming on a parallel track showed up.  It stopped and we began the precarious task of unloading passengers from the 3:57 to the new train.  Not as easy you might think.  Train tracks have angled piles of rip-rap, large, sharp chunks of granite from the mounded tracks to the road bed, erosion prevention and weed suppression, I imagine.  This meant the small aluminum step stool angled below the train we left at a severe cant downward.  Likewise, the stool on the track next to the new train, on a more elevated set of tracks, angled upward even more.

This meant a lot of careful hand holding and ginger helping of passengers who included a blind man and a woman with only one arm.  Unloading the 3:57 took perhaps a half-an-hour then the new train began to move.  It was a smooth response by the conductors and train personnel, handled, as nearly I saw, without injury or incident.

Did I mention this was my first trip on the Northstar?

June 2017
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