Without elaborating in a public forum, this is a dark time for me. It is difficult to write and difficult to shoot. This is not a matter of “changing my thoughts” or an “attitude adjustment.” I’m tired.
“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin
Overall, I am fortunate. I have good friends and nice friends. I have support and encouragement from people around me. Also around me, well . . .as I type this I’m looking at blue water under blue sky and know that this is a luxury.
I’m feeling the pain of a faith being tested. I’m pushing back the fear of the unknown, consciously forcing myself to look toward the faith side and turn my back on the fear. This has been a far more difficult winter than I imagined, with twists and turns—not all bad, but distracting. I feel like I’m sliding down a dusty slope, trying to reverse the momentum or at least gain enough traction to delay the descent.
And now it is spring, and the progress I’d expected to make over the winter has not materialized. Maybe my expectations were too great and my faith in my choices too secure. Or maybe I’ve been too IN-secure to let myself truly believe.
I am simultaneously restless and paralyzed. I want to pace back and forth and circle through the rooms, and yet the movement has no force or destination. I want to sit quietly and calm my mind.
I saw the hyacinth at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, its flowers still closed. Like narcissus at Christmas, hyacinths at Easter have a heady fragrance that soothes and excites—spring is here. Today the buds have all opened, and the stems are bent from the weight of the full blooms. The fragrance is not as strong now that the flower has matured. It is fulfilling its purpose: to grow, to blossom, to beautify, to create happiness, to take us out of winter and give us spring.
What is my purpose, and is this my spring?
“It is 2016, but your life may not feel very different in any way just yet…but your life could change dramatically.” Capricorn horoscope for today
In my last post I noted how difficult it’s been for me to write. Again, I’ve started this post and stopped several times. I’ve shot photos and scrapped them. I usually post to Instagram nearly every day, though, thanks to a daily photo challenge. But I’ve been thinking about this blog.
Today, as I type, I’m thinking that I should be outside walking. The sun has come out, and fresh cool air would do me good. I should also be making lasagna with the vegetables I purchased earlier this week—that really has to be done. I’m finishing laundry, and still need to finish taking carpet staples out of the hardwood floor in the bedroom. And Zsa Zsa is overdue for a bath.
This blog, to me, has always been a personal outlet, and maybe that is the issue. For the past few months I’ve been scattered, distracted, on the edge, trying to develop a new business, leaving the known for the unknown, struggling to get settled in this house. Progress is slower than expected. I’m worried and sad and excited. As my old life slips away, I feel unprepared for the new, yet I push ahead. As much as I used to love the holidays, I now dread the isolation of December. What I’m feeling defies description at any given moment. But I put up a good façade.
A recent conversation with a friend who paid me the nicest compliment I’ve ever received and a heart-wrenching Facebook post by another whose friend just committed suicide made me pause. From different directions and in different ways, the same message I got from each of them was that you never know what someone is thinking. We are all islands—with all due respect to John Donne—connected really by the water between us, whether ebbing back and forth or flowing past. Our energy draws us together, but it may or may not be strong enough to keep us that way.
This New Year brings release of old patterns and relationships and memories that are hurtful or that have run their course. All I can do is focus long enough to welcome new opportunities, new connections, new waters and new inspiration, and hopefully a cushion for next December’s blows.
I’ve been trying to write for several weeks. I thought that once I got to where I was going it would all be okay. I could regain my focus on tasks at hand and move ahead. Without relaying all the laborious details, these weeks have been somewhat disappointing and even distressing.
Today's photos were taken ages ago when we had a couple of days of snow. The sunrises here are beautiful, and I photograph them regularly. Truly, the weather has been amazing, so that is positive.
Right now my “to do” list is still full, and there are things that I HAVE to finish today. I’ll write a real blog entry when I’m in a better mood, a better frame of mind. This afternoon the water outside is calm, reflecting the grey, broken clouds. I’ll enjoy the quiet evening, make a phone call or two and push through the must-do tasks on the list.
“Scattering pieces of me in towns all over the place. A trail of crumbs dotting the map from everywhere we've left to everywhere we go. And they don't make any pictures when I connect dots. They are random like the stars littering the sky at night.” Brian James, Zombie Blondes
Last week on Facebook a friend was feeling a little nostalgic dropping off her old house keys as her family moved to a new home. I’ve been there, too. I’m trying to wind this effort up, hoping to at least take the final pieces out of storage by the end of the week, even if they have to go into the garage for now. The house is still in disaster mode with my landlord’s newly acquired house contents pushed to the perimeters and my boxes and bins and suitcases waiting for the furniture.
But otherwise, there is so much “flow” with this move, a strange mixture of excitement about developing my work and making a home and an ease and comfort in revisiting old routines and places. “All of life comes to me with ease, joy and glory,” per Access Consciousness.
For many years—and I know I’ve mentioned this at some point—I walked through Webster Park on Sunday mornings, sun and snow. So on this chilly 43 degree morning I had the opportunity to try it again after nine years away. Parts of Holt Road are unrecognizable because of housing development, but the park is the park, thankfully. There is a new playground at the entrance, but Zsa Zsa and I meandered the loop along the creek, out to the lake, then up and down the hill. This was new for ZZ. She’s not a walker, but she is a trooper and gave it all she had. I ended up carrying her for about half the time, which was fine. As I walked, snapping photos with my phone, I wondered how many times I’d photographed the same scenes in decades past on film. I’ll have to look for those images to compare.
So beautiful, this quiet time along the creek, shushing through leaves in fresh, clear air. I missed Sunday walks in Oregon and Ohio, and now I’m back, recharging my soul for the next week—and weeks to come.
Quite awhile ago friend Chris Hughes (CUontheRoad.net) shared an article on Facebook about finding random coins—dimes and pennies usually—and the possibility that this phenomenon was spiritual or supernatural in nature. She, too, had been finding coins and wondering what was up.
At the time, my parents had just passed away, and there were lots of little “signs” from them as I went through the process of grieving and closing their estate. But over the past year as I readied the house for sale, packed things up and moved other things out, I, too, started finding coins more often. Now, my parents took saving change to a new level. I found coffee cans, Planters nut cans and jars, plastic butter containers, envelopes, and candy dishes overflowing in dresser drawers and tucked in the linen closet. I think there is still a can of pennies in a box somewhere that has to be changed out. Anyway, it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for me to find a few random coins lying around.
Until I would sweep a bedroom floor and return to find a penny right in the middle of it. One day I moved a box with my Hummel angels packed inside, and a dime fell off of the top of it. Coins appeared on the counter or kitchen floor. A penny fell from the UHaul truck as I unloaded it at the storage place. I know it hadn’t been there, and I don’t carry change in my pockets.
The reason I mention this now is because things have stepped up considerably since I moved into this house—not “I’m going to be a millionaire” level, but certainly more often for a house that I’ve been cleaning almost every day. Toward the end of my stay in Ohio I started saving some of the pennies and dimes as I found them, and I’ve been collecting the really unusual finds here.
Several have appeared in the master bedroom: on the carpet, on the old mattress that I’m shoving out the door tomorrow and in my suitcase. Today, I looked over at my car’s passenger seat, which I had just cleared minutes before, and there was a shiny dime.
What prompted me to write this post was that I was unpacking some of my dishes (formerly my grandmother’s) into a cabinet last night. I thought of her, hoped that the rest of the set in other boxes made it through the move safely, and pictured serving friends future dinners on her dishes. Clink—a dime fell on the counter from between two plates as I unwrapped them. True story. I smiled and said “hello” and “thank you,” as I have been doing when I find these coins. The photos are of the some of these special gifts.
Many people are not inclined to believe in spiritual energy, or they believe that there is something scary or freaky about incidents like this. I, instead, feel a sense of comfort and encouragement. Someone, or more likely several guardians, are looking out for me, saying hello with pennies from heaven.
Some people see their paths clearly. Everything is laid out in front of them, their compasses point north, and they’re off and running. Other people—like myself—seem to have less direction or clarity or a path that is at least partially covered in vines or fog. Maybe it all feels right sometimes. Things fall into place, and people show up exactly at the time they’re needed. One contact or project or tidbit pushes you along in the Universal Flow. I’ve been there.
However, the last few years I’ve groped in the fog and hacked away with a machete. While I knew Ohio was the “right” choice I could not seem to make much headway. I felt isolated most of the time for many reasons.
Finally, though, I tuned out the desire to “make it work” and tuned into more subtle messages. I evaluated my experiences and reviewed the paths I’d taken. I went back to an old exercise of mine that asks, “What would you do if it could be anything?” and eliminated limitations, gradually putting thoughts out There about what would be ideal for me.
I’ve learned the following: 1. what you think you want and what you’re supposed to have are not always the same things; 2. meditation is an excellent tool for filtering and calming; 3. having patience is very important; 4. focusing on lack creates lack, and focusing on abundance and blessings creates abundance and blessings; 5. it can all be frustrating and grueling, but you have to be patient; 6. and trust in a benevolent Universe/God/Spirit; 7. your gut feelings are your instincts, and if you can tune into those—as crazy as they may seem—they won’t steer you wrong; 8. patience, grasshopper, patience.
My “work” is still evolving, but my house-hunting exploits are the stuff of legends. Plan A was to purchase a house for cash and not have a mortgage payment. As soon as this was possible the market skyrocketed, greatly diminishing my choices of homes and neighborhoods. There was a cute little place near the corner on Jewel St. at Norton, however, that caught my eye in spite of there being only one exterior photo of the property. The neighborhood was marginal with a church directly across the street, but a suspicious looking multi-family across Norton that seemed to have cars generally pulling up and leaving.
When realtor Tim opened the door, I fell in love with the house. It was everything I’d imagined: old style tiles, hardwoods, a sunroom, glass front kitchen cabinets, an attached garage, charm, reasonably priced. But would I feel safe in the neighborhood? Could I take Zsa Zsa for a walk? Did I want to zip my car in the garage and live inside looking out? There had been a shooting down the street. I decided to make an offer anyway because it was such a nice house in good condition. Ahh, but no-go. The man told Tim that he was taking it off the market to rent to a friend of his. I wasn’t happy, but “wasn’t meant to be” kept going through my head.
Subsequent houses went from bad to worse, including a house that was imploding because it had been built on a spring (or cave or something) and a mobile home 20 miles from the city with a ceiling that was buckling. I’d tried to wrap my head around a possible deal for a house on the water, but couldn’t get it to feel comfortable. A talk with one of my friends finally convinced me to rent instead by reminding me of the freedom I had as a tenant in Oregon and reiterating that repairs on these houses were imminent, as were Rochester’s notoriously high taxes. Oh, yes. It was coming back to me from owning my house years ago.
My friends and I switched gears to find suitable rental properties: at least off-street parking, two bedrooms if possible, and, of course, Zsa Zsa friendly. We cruised by a few possibilities; I visited a couple of city lofts. I was making appointments and staying in my friends’ camper next to their house with my belongings in storage.
One Sunday I simply drove around thinking, “There has to be SOMEthing. What am I missing?” which took me along the bay. I spotted one “For Rent” sign in front of a two-car garage and took down the number. When I called the next day, the landlord and I seemed to connect right away. The house was a funky, artsy-craftsy two-bedroom with the garage. And it was right on the water. In fact, it had everything I’d asked for from the Universe at the beginning of this whole process. BAM, Emeril style.
I imagine myself as the princess kissing frogs to get to the prince, (need I mention the trust and patience involved?) but am excited to be in a place that feels kind of like home even with my furniture in storage. I couldn’t have gotten here without help from my friends Diane & Bill, Rich, Jodi, Carol and Larry—sages, cheerleaders, voices of reason, sounding boards. I am so, so grateful for the advice, suggestions and patience as I toddled through this particular stretch.
I’ve spent the entire day here at the house just reading, unpacking, cleaning, putting a slipcover on a chair, looking at paint swatches. Neighbor Dave mowed my little back yard. The path continues, and so will I. The fog has cleared. Tonight the moon is shining on the still water.
Well, if I felt like a “man without a country” before, it’s practically a reality today. On Friday my brother came down from Michigan to sign closing papers on my parents’ (our) house. I’ll be living here for the next weeks as I narrow my new home options down, but nearly everything has been packed, donated, given away or thrown away. The remainder is in limbo, waiting in near-empty cupboards and a couple of closets.
I am also in limbo to an extent, though I pack and move boxes and furniture to the basement or storage room every day in order to feel like I’m moving forward. The constant sorting and filtering and reliving memories during this year have worn on me—not that I would regret or trade the experience of the past five years. While I feel the heaviness of loss and perplexity of the future on any given day, the trial by fire is but smoldering now as I finish with my parents’ lives and refocus on my own and the possibilities that come with a clean slate.
As a Capricorn, I like security. I’ve lived on the edge before. Secure is better. But not feeling secure is a lesson in growth. And trust.
I set aside time to meditate every day, to clear my head and listen to any inner or outer voice that cares to offer direction. After all that’s happened I’m confident that angels maintain a vigilant watch on goings-on around me and give me some guidance. I had expected to stay for another year or so and save a bit of money working on one or two of the several job offers that appeared earlier this year. But, in spite of the fact that four different entities approached ME, none of them have materialized into actual work. Instead, they’ve vaporized—a clear sign that I am to move on.
The newspaper “eliminated” my part-time position (along with others’) at the end of May just two days before the State of Ohio said they would be in a hold pattern on a project for another 12 months-- translation: no funding for making my part-time County job full-time for at least a year. While this income decrease was distressing, it was the Universe’s way of pushing me to pack it in and pack it up. I told the buyers for this house to go ahead and begin the paperwork. We were supposed to sign toward the end of the month. They decided to go ahead and get it done last week.
I have homes “saved” on various sites for Newport, Oregon, and Buffalo and Rochester. The more I talk about New York winters, the less enthusiastic I am to get there. I love the Oregon coast all year round and could probably get back into the photo/writing/wine thing without too much trouble. On the negative side, I missed the east while I was out there—the history, my friends, the architecture, the proximity to family. I currently don’t have work lined up in Rochester, however, so that’s unsettling (the security thing.) It’s a much bigger place, though, with a year-round economy, so there are more opportunities available.
I went through the final bins in the garage yesterday and found a notebook/journal that I kept while going through my divorce. It was painful to read. I was hurt and confused and wanted so badly to make things better, to be the wife I was “supposed” to be. But as I read I saw myself progressing through that experience, that pain, that insecurity and coming to the other side, and I recognized my time here as somewhat similar: working through the range of emotions, new doors opening as others close, feeling stronger with a bit of time, and feeling the Universe push me to a new level in my life.
A few days ago a Rochester friend posted a “girl drink” recipe on Facebook, and my first thought and comment on it was “It looks perfect for chick flick night!” As I fixed Sunday breakfast this morning, I thought what fun it will be to have friends over for Sunday brunch, maybe once a month. At Dollar General picking up some plastic bags, I added a couple of little hanging votives from a sale shelf to my basket for my new porch. Or patio. Or garden. This is exciting.
I’m moving on, and my only security now is the knowledge that the Universe will put me in the right house in the right place and show me the right opportunities for the next leg of my journey. More to come.
(RE: the photos, one day at the Hill, while trying to take a quick nap, I looked up at a skylight and thought about it as a frame for fleeting abstract paintings, little snippets of clouds and sky dancing, twisting, disappearing.)
I’m getting closer to the finish line. While looking at all the updates on Zillow, I did see one little house that I thought might be a contender. Then the realtor sent me additional photos: part of the plumbing missing, a shabby roof, a large window rotted underneath, no furnace. Hmmm.
The Salvation Army took away much of what has to go, but I’ll need to have them come out again for the final large items that I’m still using. They took my father’s recliner, and I replaced it with an old Mission style rocking chair that suits me better. I’m packing every day, and now I can take more down to the basement. I sorted and condensed bins in the garage on Saturday. There is still too much stuff, but I don’t know where I’ll be and what I’ll need. At least a lot of what I have is in boxes now.
As I was maneuvering boxes in the basement, I saw one from Oregon that I hadn’t opened. Inside were some photos, some books (what a surprise,) and a beautiful, soft knitted wrap from my friend Beverlee. Beverlee and Robert were my first landlords there and my neighbors and friends after I moved from their furnished, stunning loft apartment with a wall of glass. This wrap was on an arm chair facing the ocean, and I spent most of my mornings there with coffee. After moving across the street, I would sometimes see Beverlee sitting in that chair, the wrap on her shoulders.
She offered items to me sometimes when she did her own downsizing or redecorating. At some point I had admired this when she was wearing it, and during her next clear-out she brought it over to me. It’s soft and light and hand made with little imperfections in the yarn and stitching. I can still see it on the back of the wing chair and feel it against my arms on misty mornings and rainy evenings in front of the loft’s gas fireplace.
Finding this made me cry and cry. It may be all of the emotions attached to this process and feeling overwhelmed and tired from this solitary journey. I’ve been going through three lives for the past year—my father’s, my mother’s and mine—trying to determine what will remain of them. And this knit throw smells of the ocean and is what remains (for me) of Beverlee. She passed away three years ago this month after a painful battle with cancer. I was talking with her at her home in Phoenix before I moved here, and she had not been feeling well but was planning to get to their summer house in Cannon Beach that summer—and did. The disease finally took its toll.
My life went on and is still going on. Her memories now mingle with my parents’ memories and those of my grandparents as I sift through all of the things that once meant something to them. I took the wrap upstairs with me. I couldn’t open any more boxes or put sheets of newspaper around anything else. The house suddenly felt cold, even though it was near 90 degrees outside.
I put the wrap around my shoulders, sat in my chair, and rocked myself to sleep.
This is the fifth time I’ve written this entry. I started it last Sunday and scrapped that subject. I started another during the week, and stopped. I began two other versions today (Sunday) alone. And shot other photos yesterday. It was all ready to go until I got ready to fire up the laptop to post. What I’ve really been thinking about this weekend are memories.
This week I heard about a woman’s supposedly revolutionary best-selling book on eliminating clutter in your life. The idea that everyone thinks is brilliant is simply “keep only the things that mean something to you.” Okay. I’ve been doing that for a year and a half.
At no other time in my life have I had to weigh the emotional “value” of things than as I’ve gone through my parents’ house. I don’t even know many of the people whose pictures and cards I’ve found. I hadn’t lived with my parents in nearly 30 years when I came here to help, and I had never lived in this house. I recognize knick knacks and drinking glasses and vacation photos that bring back memories, but I don’t need to keep all of them.
I have my own keepsakes that bring old memories and feelings to the surface: a favorite coffee mug, a postcard, a purse, some jewelry, and of course photographs. For years I kept an envelope with a scribble on it. I think I’ve let that go, but the memories of that period and lover are still mixed. Sometimes happy thoughts are crowded away by painful ones, even so many years later.
I have some Depression glass that was my grandfather’s and a fern stand that was his mother’s, as was a lamp that my mother inherited. They remind me of the lovely house on the bank of the Ohio River; memories of my grandparents are good. Those things will come with me again.
July 6 was an old boyfriend’s birthday—and I mean decades ago. Memories of the good and bad trickled into my head all week: skiing, concerts, Kennywood, then, phone calls, tension and a nasty breakup. I know I am not the same person I was then, and it all happened as it should.
Today on NPR’s “Radio Lab” a guest told a story about a friend who had passed away. He talked about memories and how he and this friend had shared a very special, intimate moment. He noted a realization about it: that he is the only one on the planet now who has had that experience and that memory. His friend is gone, and he can share it through talking about it, but he is the only one who can feel the memory. When he goes, the beautiful moment will die, also.
He re-started the memory flow in my head—fireworks in Pittsburgh, a special dinner in NYC, a discussion of love in the dark, a drive along the coast, a night under a meteor shower—all unique, intimate moments shared with just one other person at the time. Do they remember them, too?
My final thought in this stream of consciousness is that “things” are not memories, they are triggers. Yesterday, while “downsizing” a bin from Oregon I found a t-shirt from one of the best days of my life. I not only took it upstairs, but put it on, recalling vignettes from that happy time. It’s impossible (and not really practical) to keep everything that has a memory attached. I’ve done well in clearing the clutter and not hanging on to items with marginal meaning just because someone else was fond of them. I am looking forward to having my own space again, surrounded by things that are important to me. But the number of fond memories I have of friends, family, loves and places would fill many houses. They are the most important possessions and travel with me in all places through all of time.
(The photos are from friend Jodi's recently acquired old farmhouse, where she and husband Kelly will make new memories)
I am always surprised (and shouldn't be) when I see how much time has passed since my last post here. I do post on ArtSoulWine a couple of times a week and shoot a "photo-a-day" challenge on Instagram, but I find myself missing the more personal posts here.
A lot has happened this month, and it's ironic that the last post was my column titled "Disconnecting" because I've been "disconnected" from the paper in a company "reorganization." This is fine and as it should be. My work there is done. Now I'm watching for the next door to open, the next directional sign, ready for the next step (whatever THAT is,) and preparing to move on. I'm sure the Universe is aware of this and is getting ready to launch me into something.
Tonight I am a bit tired; my days are full still with details and thoughts--waaay too much time in my head. With an early meeting tomorrow, I took time tonight to go through some recent flower photos and play a bit with them. I'm thankful for that quiet time and the peacefulness that the photos are giving me. Enjoy...
This column appeared in the Times Leader on Sunday, May 24, 2015
From the Latin words “dis” (apart) + “com” (together) + “nectere” (to tie,) the concept of “disconnect” has apparently become a bad thing. I wonder why.
That’s not to say that there aren’t negative forms of disconnection—sudden or prolonged withdrawal from friends and family or a winter power outage during an ice storm for instance. But I’m far more overwhelmed by too much connection than by pulling the plug or temporarily loosening the ties. For other people, it seems there is no such thing as down time.
I’m connected to my computer, phone and television, as are most people these days and as guilty of fidgety glances looking for notifications. My smart phone dings when new emails arrive in four different accounts. It tells me if I’ve missed a call and which contact in my list of several hundred was trying to reach me. A little camera icon appears when someone likes one of my Instagram photos, and a talking bubble icon shows up if one of my friends sends me an instant message or text. I have websites and blogs to be updated, and don’t get me started on keeping up with my friends’ activities on Facebook.
Yes, there’s something kind of cool about someone in Australia following your posts or getting “likes” from the UK and Malaysia and keeping in touch with friends throughout the world, but there is also something a little creepy about people from your past that you’d rather forget or people that you don’t know at all repeatedly sending requests to be in your network on LinkedIn.
Companies that develop the apps constantly badger me to update their products, some of which require an increasing list of “permissions” to access my phone’s history, camera, contacts, location, etc. I usually opt for “No. I’ll keep the old version, thank you.” What is disconcerting, though, is that I just scanned through some of the out-dated apps, and they now “require no new permissions.” This means that (probably) Google has taken care of that and upgraded me with some sort of system update that handed over all of my information to Amazon, Facebook, Google Play, Motorola and YouTube whether I want them to have it or not. Very disturbing to have them connecting to my life without my knowledge or my approval. It is, after all, my phone service for which I pay an exorbitant amount of money every month.
For many years, going back to the Dark Ages when I had a land line at home, I have shut the phone ringer off on Sundays. Now it’s usually because I’m writing (working) on Sunday afternoons, but then it was to disconnect and spend time reading, watching old movies and hanging out with my dog to recharge. I do it when I need to spend a few hours of quiet time away from the world at large. Voice mail is a wonderful thing.
I disconnect when I’m working, too--no TV, no radio or Pandora. For the most part, the only sounds are usually the breeze in the trees and Zsa Zsa snoring while I write. Maybe it’s my little pea brain, but I have to concentrate without distractions. I zone in on my research and computer screen. I sound out the words in my head as I type. I read what I’ve written out loud. I can’t hear myself while Dr. Phil interrogates his guests or Ellen dances or contestants price appliances. But that’s just the way I roll.
A commercial for a morning show says, “You don’t want to be the one who doesn’t know.” Frankly, I don’t care about “knowing” everything. I glance through the headlines later, and if something interests me I read or watch the story. What I REALLY “don’t want” is to be bombarded with bad news and commercials first thing in the morning. I’ve mentioned this before.
I recently forgot my phone when I went to Pittsburgh with a school field trip. A little anxiety set in at first because I was waiting for an email. How would I return calls? I’d planned to do my Instagram post from the museum—what now? My friend offered her phone to check emails and snap photos, and I stopped myself. What was the big deal? I had my regular camera for taking photos, and I would still have time once back at home to return the necessary messages. No need to panic. Breathe, reset, relax and simply enjoy the opportunity to see the art and artifacts.
How have we become so nervous about stepping out of the loop? What is that need to check the phone for flashing icons or the number of “likes?” When did the human web become so tightly woven that there is no privacy and so much extraneous thread? We’ve become afraid to be quiet and alone and untied even just for a little while. Is it because “the truth is out there,” and we want to be the first to post it? Or is it because we know the truth lies within us, and we are uncomfortable with what we’ll find?
I would be remiss in listing local “must sees” if I did not mention one of my favorite places on the PLANET: Oglebay Park on the outskirts of Wheeling, West Virginia. The park began with a moneyed family’s summer home (now on the National Historic Register) and has become a premier park system, unique in the United States. Its 1600+ acres sprawl across hills and valleys, ponds and a lake.
Everyone and anyone can find something to do at Oglebay. There are three golf courses (a Par 3, a nine-hole and a championship 18-hole;) the Mansion Museum; a pool; tennis courts; Schrader Environmental Education Center; Good Zoo; a planetarium; a ski slope; Schenk Lake with paddle boats and fishing; picnic areas; an amphitheater; and miles of trails around the lake and all over the hills.
Wilson Lodge Resort & Conference Center has more than 270 rooms, a spa, conference center and two restaurants. There are also various sized cottages for rent.
When I was in college at nearby West Liberty, friends and I spent many a day picnicking and skiing and just hanging out in the sun at Oglebay. I love walking the trails around the lake, and it’s rare when I don’t see various kinds of wildlife: deer grazing, turtles sunning, Canadian geese paddling around a pond; ducks in the lake; dragonflies; cranes.
Regarding the next challenge nominee, one is not able to do it, and I should hear from another any time now. Thanks so much for allowing me to participate—it was FUN!
Happy trails and safe travels…
These are Concord grapes grown at Georgetown Vineyards in Cambridge, Ohio—about 30 miles west of Barkcamp. Concord is a native grape that produces jelly and wine. Most of the time Concord wine is fairly sweet, though I’ve had some less sweet that is very good.
Believe it or not, Ohio was the leading wine producer in America’s first 50 years. Land along the Ohio River east of Cincinnati was the prime spot. Blight destroyed most of the crop in the late 1850s, however, and the Civil War took the workforce. The industry didn’t “take root” again until the mid to late 20th century. Nearly all of today’s 110+ wineries are smaller and family-run, but Ohio ranks 10th in US wine production. Wineries and vineyards are located throughout the state from the Lake Erie shore to the banks of the Ohio River.
In Belmont County, Vino di Piccin is owned by six siblings who grew up with a wine-making father from Italy. They use his recipes and order grapes from Ohio and California to make some really nice Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as blends and whites.
Black Sheep Vineyards is on the border of Belmont and Jefferson Counties in Adena, Ohio. John and Becky Black bought an old sheep farm and planted several types of grapes. The tasting room is in the big, old barn, and the wine is made downstairs. They set high standards for their wines, and it’s quite good. They have music and dinner events regularly.
Georgetown Vineyards grows some estate grapes and orders grapes, juice and fruit from various sources to create some nice wines. Their Cranberry and Rhubarb wines are kind of fun. The site is beautiful—on top of a hill overlooking the town of Cambridge.
Beyond Cambridge, west on I-70 lies Terra Cotta Vineyards near New Concord. Their wines are hand-crafted, also, and they have a nice port called Hummingbird. North of Cambridge on I-77, you’ll find Ravens Glenn Winery in Newcomerstown just a few miles west of the freeway. This is a very popular tasting room with a restaurant, a large selection of wines to try and a sizeable gift shop. It sits right on the banks of the Tuscarawas River, and they host a lot of weddings and special dinners.
Some people may recognize this Candlewick from Imperial Glass. These are pieces from my mother’s collection—it was her wedding china pattern. Aside from steel mills and coal mines, this area was known for its quality glass like Imperial, Fostoria and Fenton, and there were many artisans crafting hand-blown and hand-painted pieces. Two of my grandfathers worked for Imperial, but the factory is gone now. However, the Imperial Glass Museum is located in Bellaire, Ohio, along the Ohio River. Zanesville Pottery and Roseville Pottery were located about 60 miles west.
In fact, Belmont County has been historically significant since before the Revolutionary War when it was considered the wilderness, a sort of no-man’s-land. Many of the settlers were soldiers and their families who received plots of land in exchange for their service. In Morristown (near Barkcamp) several soldiers’ remains rest in Pioneer Cemetery.
Before, during and after the Civil War Belmont County was a gateway to points north for the Underground Railroad. A few miles from Morristown, in Flushing, Dr. John Mattox hosts visitors at the Underground Railroad Museum Foundation. The thousands of artifacts he has collected are fascinating, and he is a great storyteller.
In Barnesville, the Victorian Mansion Museum is the preserved and restored residence of one of the town’s prominent families. Beautiful hand-crafted woodwork, furniture, period collections and special displays are well worth a look.
The county seat, St. Clairsville, has a new museum next to the County Courthouse. It’s a converted Sheriff’s Residence (and jail) with information on many of the local museums I’ve mentioned and on upcoming events.
Since I don’t have current camping photos, I thought I would share some of the local attractions that may be of interest to RVers in the event that you decide to visit this part of the Ohio Valley. I stopped at Barkcamp State Park yesterday, (a few miles north of my house) where my brother and sister-in-law set up their giant travel trailer when they bring it down from Michigan.
Barkcamp is a local favorite for hikers, fisherman, and hunters. It has horse trails and equestrian camping areas, an archery range and miniature golf, playgrounds, a stony beach, picnic areas throughout, and, I believe, family movies are shown during the summer in one area. This is the “quintessential Barkcamp photo” of the lake that everyone would recognize. One of the boat launches and a dock are just out of the photo, to the left.
Sites seem to go quickly since it’s a state park. I do know that locals camp here because I’ve walked there as training for a 5k (a combination of hills and flat roads with limited traffic) and chatted with people from nearby towns. There is also a popular and difficult trail run every fall called--wait for it--the Barkcamp Race founded by a friend of mine. Sometimes I take a chair and book and my pup Zsa Zsa on summer Sunday afternoons and sit in a quiet picnic area under the trees. I’ve been here in all four seasons, and it’s always beautiful.
Thank you, Chris Hughes of CUontheRoad.net for naming me in this challenge and for your kind words. I’ve really enjoyed your black & whites this week, and I always like reading posts from the RV Happiness community.
As Chris noted, I’m not currently an "RVer,” but my family began camping in a 17’ Scotty (?) when I was around 10 years old and moved to larger campers from there. We stayed mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania but did travel up through New England to Maine one summer. In my teens, my parents decided to lease a “permanent” space in PA’s Allegheny National Forest/Kinzua area, and they kept that location until after they retired.
I was thinking about Chris’s challenge standing at my kitchen window this morning getting breakfast when I had a flashback of my camping mornings. I would be the first up (of my parents and brother) so I could get ready and dressed and out of the way. I would make a cup of tea and sit outside in the quiet, cool, fresh morning air. In the high forest it was often a bit misty, but that burned off by mid-morning. I always enjoyed the sounds of birds singing, the breath of a breeze rustling tree leaves and other campers stirring. So I'll start at the beginning with this first photo of my morning coffee on the deck. It takes me back to those days and has me considering the possibility of experiencing those simple pleasures again.
(This feature article appeared in the Times Leader on Saturday, May 9.)
BARNESVILLE—“We want to help kids and families with what we’ve been through. We want to give back,” says Alayna Willis, eighth grade. She is one of many students whose life has been affected by cancer, and she and her friends are volunteering time and energy to make Barnesville’s annual “Cutting Class for a Cure” another successful event. This year Friday, May 15 is the big day.
For seven years Barnesville Middle School has held a spring fundraiser with all proceeds donated to the local 3 Cs Cancer Support Group. In 2009 teachers Lori Witchey and Bev McConnell organized “Coins for a Cure” a fund drive that passed coffee cans around classrooms and netted $489.34.
In 2012 Witchey, a cancer survivor who also lost her father to the disease, and McConnell, who lost her husband and a brother to cancer, stepped it up with the first “Cutting Class for a Cure” cancer walk. Their stories provided a connection with students dealing with cancer in their own families and a shared interest in helping local support groups. Students purchased passes to get out of class and spend the periods walking laps in the gymnasium. That year the school raised over $4,000, and each year the “Cutting Class” event has grown.
“It’s always an amazing day,” says Denise Adkins-Leach, Barnesville Middle School language arts teacher. “The whole building is into it.”
Adkins-Leach has taken on the project this year after Witchey’s and McConnell’s retirements. She explains that small events and fundraisers earlier in the year provide seed money for the “Cutting Class” day. For instance, a “Kiss Cancer Goodbye” campaign sold packages of Hershey Kisses for 50 cents to help purchase materials for other “Cutting Class” fundraisers, as did a “March Madness” basketball tournament that raised $400 toward the cause.
Fifth grade math students held a Math-a-Thon to help out. Seventh and eighth graders have been making signs to post throughout the community and in the school. Students have provided feedback and input on ideas for fundraising, activities and designs for signs and t-shirts, according to Adkins-Leach. She commended their hard work and efforts during study halls and learning lab times even around the testing schedule.
“The kids are learning to give back to the community,” Adkins-Leach explains. “That is something that we try to instill in them.”
Students like Willis, Casey Betts and Alle Sinisgalli are gathering family members and other donors to participate in “Cutting Class” and will be helping out during the activities.
“My brother Grayson has been an inspiration,” Willis notes. Grayson, 19, battled cancer most of his life, but is now clear. “He pushes me to do what we can.”
Sinisgalli, also in eighth grade, has been busy making support ribbons, and her group plans to have 1,000 ready to sell. Her mother had cancer when she was pregnant, and her aunt is a cancer patient now.
“I know it was hard for my mother,” she says. “I want to help people going through the same things.”
The cause is important to eighth grader Betts, too. Cancer took both of her grandmothers.
“I’m going to be bringing family members and raise money to help,” Betts adds. “And give people hope.”
Volunteers from 3 Cs Cancer Support Group will also be on hand again this year. Proceeds from this event provide assistance to patients and families not covered by health insurance. This often includes, but is not limited to, wigs for chemotherapy patients, gasoline cards, grocery gift cards, meals and hotel stays during treatments. So far BMS has donated a total of $25,153.10 to the organization from their yearly “Cure” events.
Adkins-Leach says this year’s special guests will include State Senator Lou Gentile, who has visited past “Cutting Class” events, and Stephanie Dodd from the Ohio State Board of Education.
Students and other participants can expect a full day of activities on May 15, beginning at 8 a.m. at Barnesville Middle School, 970 Shamrock Dr. The walk will take place in the gymnasium, as always. This year, in addition, staff and volunteers will be running a corn hole competition, Ultimate Frisbee, a photo booth and a volleyball tournament. Adkins-Leach also notes that some teachers have agreed to be targets in a “pie in the face” event.
There will be a memory and honor wall again, and two t-shirt styles are available for orders now and the day of the event. One is a solid kiwi green for $10 and the other is a tie-dyed Kelly green shirt for $15. Sponsor Ramcat Alley Sportswear in Bellaire has been a big help, according to Adkins-Leach.
She points out that many individuals, agencies and businesses have contributed to this event and cause. Some of these include sponsors Barnesville Education Association; Barnesville Athletic Association; the math, language arts, music and social studies departments at BMS; Dairy Queen; Triple B Trucking; Bennoc, Inc.; Allison Starr and Mandi Moore of Premier Jewelry; China One; VFW Post 168; Ohio Hills Health Services; Belmont Savings Bank; Martha Campbell; Eva Lynn; JoAnn Murphy; Dave Barker; Cline Road Custom Cakes; The Styling House; W.J. Plumly Trucking.
South Central Power and Convenient Food Mart are donating some bottled water, hot dogs and buns. Miller’s Bakery and My Pizza Place are donating food for event workers. Adkins-Leach says that food sponsor opportunities are available for Life Water or Gatorade and for sponsorships toward food and beverages for walk participants.
Merchandise and gift cards or gift certificates have been donated by the following contributors, among others, for door prizes and raffle prizes: Cincinnati Bengals; Cincinnati Reds; Washington Wildthings; Wheeling Nailers; Pennsylvania Rebellion; Undo’s; West Texas Roadhouse; Chel’s; J-Mo Meats; WesBanco; Belmont Carson Petroleum; Wendy’s; Reisbeck’s; McDonald’s; Avenues of Barnesville; Barnesville Football Parents; Barnesville Vision Consultants; Save-a-Lot; Braido Memorials; Bill Hunkler Insurance; District Superintendent Randy Lucas; Barnesville Library; Domino’s Pizza. A complete list of donors and sponsors can be seen at the event’s Facebook page, “Barnesville Middle School Cutting Class for a Cure.”
Students will be able to purchase all-day wristbands for $10 to get out of classes for the whole day’s activities. The fee also includes 12 tickets for prize drawings. They also have the option of purchasing tickets for individual class periods and drawings, says Adkins-Leach. Prizes include signed sports memorabilia from the Cincinnati Bengals and The Ohio State University Buckeyes as well as jewelry and an iPod with an iTunes gift card. Contact Adkins-Leach through the school at (740)425-3116 or via the Facebook page regarding prize donations or sponsorships. Cash donations for the 3Cs will be accepted throughout the day of the event. Last year the day’s activities brought in $13,076.36, and Adkins-Leach hopes to reach $14,000 this year.
“Everybody pitches in for this event,” she says. “Everything raised stays local. People give generously because they know where the money is going.”
The students are hoping for a big day this year, too, in support of cancer patients and their families and friends.
“We want to show people that they don’t have to go through this alone,” Sinisgalli adds. “People can be here for them.”
I haven’t meant to neglect this blog. Life is always changing. I’ve been doing work-related projects for the most part, but also some house things and an artsy project. I’m trying to decide whether to remain in the Ohio Valley for a while longer or go somewhere else. If I move, where will I go? Or will I travel for a bit and work from the road? My little pea-brain spins when I start pondering all of the possibilities. These last two weeks the “busy-ness” is catching up with me, and, as of this morning, I’m quickly developing either a sinus/allergy malady or a blasted summer cold.
At any rate, Saturday I visited my cousins, who are working on the decorative pond in their front yard. We went up to Wet Pets in Pittsburgh’s South Hills looking for new pumps and plants and fish. While they hashed all of that out, I meandered through the aquarium aisles watching neon colors in various shapes and sizes dart through bubbled waters and fake coral.
The fish life in an aquarium: no big decisions on packing it all in to unpack somewhere else; daily food in a temperature-controlled climate; observing the observers on the other side of the glass (what is glass?) I did note, though, that while some are lazily, coasting back and forth, others make their tanks look like the subway at rush hour. What are they thinking?
Are they content, or do any of them, like the goldfish in the Public Television commercial, long to be a wild salmon swimming upstream in the excitement of the rapids?
(These, by the way, were taken with my phone not my DSLR, so the quality is a bit lacking)
In 2013 I spent nearly every Saturday morning walking some of the trails at Oglebay Park, just about an hour’s drive away. Last year, not so much because I was working on my parents’ house. This year I hope to get back on track, so to speak, and I definitely wanted to get some photos of the tulip gardens around the Mansion buildings--so beautiful and featuring one of my very favorite types of flower. This morning I was able to scoot over from Shadyside early, before the rain. Visitors come from all over to see the flowers and grounds, and—pleasant surprise—I bumped into the Ebbert family strolling through the amazing tulip displays, too. If you aren’t able to make it before the season ends, this will hopefully inspire you to visit Oglebay next April.