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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

My view this morning. A cup of coffee. Dog Charlie at my feet.  Cats cuddling. And a chat with a friend.  Doesn’t get better than this.

 

Buzz snoozing in the sun.

 

Jen with Rio

On Wednesday I drove to Breaux Bridge to visit my friend Jen’s farm, Bonne Terre (which means good earth).  She has been working hard all year to get her property ready for renting.  She offered her place for a writing retreat, so I am working on plans.  Check out her new website here. 

Above Jen is flirting with her horse Rio.  I loved watching her interact with her animals.  She is a natural mother to them all.

Everywhere I turned there were writing prompts.  Sitting on the porch watching the birds, looking at all the artisan knick-knacks she has around, or reading the inspirational messages on her walls, I felt relaxed and inspired.

Today I celebrate friendship and the long relaxing days of summer.

 

Jen’s cow, Matilda, peeks at use over the fence to her pasture.

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Grab your bike and go on tour with me through the town of New Iberia, the city of live oaks.  Jim has been leading this tour for years, but I joined for the first time last weekend.  I was amazed at what little I knew about live oaks and their history in our town.

The above picture was one of our first stops at the fire station.  Jim pointed out the resilience of oaks. They fight to survive even while people try to control them with trimming as well as the abuse of concrete and traffic.

The New Iberia oak

In the early 1930’s a local historian Glen Conrad sought to register live oaks in New Iberia that were 100 years or older.  This massive oak lies on a corner of Main Street near McDonalds.  The property is abandoned so this oak has been allowed to sprawl and spread its wings.  We were moved to clean up trash while we stopped to admire this majestic tree.

Armond’s oak, Main Street, New Iberia

Jim stopped at this home on Main Street to talk about Armond’s oak.  Armond Schwing doesn’t live here anymore, but in 1992 he called Jim after Hurricane Andrew damaged this oak.  Jim asked Armond to be patient, the tree would recover in time.  And now, almost 25 years later, the tree has grown a new branch to balance itself.  To me, this is the magic of nature.  The magic of our trees.

Steamboat House, Main Street, New Iberia, LA

Just a few months ago a large draping branch from this majestic oak fell.  The owner has already refilled the blank spot with a pagoda and new driveway.  Jim was called to consult on this incident, too.  His advice to the owner was to build the driveway at a slight incline near the tree to allow the root system air and space. One of the things most people do not understand about these trees is that the root system is as large below the ground as the tree is above.  This is imperative to the survival of a tree.  This one was already endangered by losing a large root for the construction of the house next door.  Jim wanted to ensure the surviving roots were given the attention they deserve.

Feel the energy. City Park, New Iberia, LA.

This live oak lives in City Park.  I walk in this park often and I’ve never paid attention to this tree.  Jim explained that he calls it the Energy Oak because it has been struck by lightning numerous times.  He told us to relax against the tree and feel the energy.  After all that biking, I needed a touch of live oak energy.

We are blessed to have an oak of 250+ years in our own backyard, but this one just down the Loreauville Road is bigger by circumference.  This tree is tucked in a grove of live oaks.  The space feels like a forest.  The bayou just beyond completes the magical setting.  Unfortunately, Jim explained that this tree is at the end of its life.  Years ago an owner tried to keep the tree from splitting, so he roped it together.  This was a fix that worked at the time, but it is now constricting and damaging the tree.  I felt privileged to be in the presence of this ancient oak.

This tour of live oaks created in me a cause.  I want to speak for the trees.  I want to give them my love and attention.  Hand in hand with my 2017 One Little Word: Cherish.

 

 

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

Saturday was a beautiful windy spring day.  A great day for a craft show.  The Shadows on the Teche hosts a craft festival twice a year.  I almost missed it.  I let the day get away from me with various Saturday chores.  About an hour before it closed, I headed downtown to check out the show.

 

 

 

My first stop was my friend Brenda’s booth of crocheted shawls.  I wanted to get a shawl for Sunday’s Berry Queen Hats and Hallelujahs Brunch.   Brenda had a just right shawl in bright reds and oranges.  Here I am all dressed up for the brunch.

red-hat-and-shawl-bq-brunch

One of the joys of walking through the craft festival is seeing and visiting with people.  I ran into old friends and made new ones.  I stopped at a pottery booth.  I was looking for a little pot to go into a wire rack I had purchased this week at an antique shop.  This little pot has a small guaranteed-to-survive-my-neglect South African succulent.

Haworthia

Haworthia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite woodworker is a retired middle school principal.  He always asks me, “Still teaching?” Needless to say he is enjoying his retirement and his hobby job.  I found a perfect wedding gift from his selection of cutting boards.

The day is not complete without fresh Kettle corn.  You can smell it throughout town, and practically everyone you meet is carrying a bag of it.  Can’t resist.

The most wonderful gift of a Saturday afternoon is time to stroll through downtown, stop and take a picture of the amaryllis, and be grateful for the small things that bring pleasure.

 

amaryllis-red

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

I don’t know how I have come to be so blessed.  If you’ve been keeping up with my blog or Facebook posts, you know I spent two weeks in Tanzania, Africa, a gift from my amazing mother-in-law.  And today, I am in upstate New York at Tara Smith’s farm.  Like Tanzania, the nights and mornings are cool, and that alone is reason to leave South Louisiana in the mid-summer.  Unlike Tanzania, this place is lush and hilly and green.

On the farm, I can breathe slowly.  I feel an energy for just being present.  Tara is a perfect hostess.  She ran down the hill from her writing spot five minutes ago because I asked for a lap blanket.  Our dinner was fresh and delicious beginning with Caprese salad and ending with sliced watermelon.  This morning, blueberry pancakes, my favorite.

I was trying to remember how I got here.  Not in a geographical sense, but when did I meet and become so attached to these friends?  I am here with Tara, Julianne, and Kimberley.  (They are each writing a post today about our time together.) The fact is I can trace each friend back to this very space, my blog.  We met through a commitment to writing and sharing our lives with each other.  Connections happen here that I do not plan or predict or that I even realize are happening until a day like today.

 

Julianne traveled from L.A. and I traveled from LA. to be together on a hill in Washington County, NY.

This is Tara’s house on the farm.  It is as lovely and charming on the inside as you can see from the outside.  I am back in time to a place of stillness and grace.

This is Sophie.  Every farm needs a dog like Sophie, keeping watch and providing comfort.

 

 

The four of us are taking a break from talking to write our separate slices.  Sharing our slices of life is what brought us all here to be present with each other, to make space for writing, and to enjoy the abundance of life.  I am so grateful for Tara’s generosity, for this community of writers, and for this amazing gift of nature.  I can believe the world is good.  I can feel hope.  I can be me.

Morning walk in the woods.

gentle moon

rising over the hills

abiding grace

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celebratesquare-image

I have been home for a week from a most amazing trip to Tanzania, Africa and still processing the experience through blog posts.  You can read them all:

Tanzania Travel Journal #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

Today I am celebrating our school visit.  The Grand Circle Foundation sponsors a number of schools in Tanzania.  The one we visited is Endoro Primary School in Karatu.

The head teacher, “Mother Mary”, took us into her small office to tell us about the school and answer any questions. Most of her students come to school from the Iraqw tribe. They do not know the national language, Kiswahili. All subjects in primary school are taught in the national language, and English is one class. Later, in secondary school, all subjects are taught in English. These students not only have to master many subjects, they must do so in many languages.

They begin school at 7 AM with cleaning and eating a breakfast of porridge. The classrooms were very basic with a chalkboard at one end and 10 desks in 3 rows with 2-3 students at each desk. The desks consisted of a wooden bench and a short wooden table top. Their supplies include pencils, assignment books, and textbooks. There are no computers at this school.

While we were there, the regional director passed by, Sandra.  It was amazing to hear her speak of the foundation and their mission to improve education.  The Tanzanian government has made all public schools free.  But that means there is no longer a $10 tuition fee per year.  Costs for supplies, books, uniforms, food, etc. are not covered.  Grand Circle Foundation recently built more classrooms and installed toilets at Endoro School.

Sandra assured us 100% of the donations go directly to the schools. She told us the cost of textbooks is about $3-$6 each. What a bargain to us in the US!

Endoro Primary School, Karatu, Tanzania

Endoro Primary School, Karatu, Tanzania

School motto

I was charmed by the students that I met.  One girl told me her name is Martha, my third daughter’s name, so we made an immediate connection.  I hope to establish pen pals for my students.

Visiting with school girls

Visiting with school girls

My birthday is August 11th. For my birthday, I am asking my friends to donate to the Grand Circle Foundation specifically for Endoro school.  You can donate by emailing me for a donation form, signing on to the Grand Circle Foundation Website, or sending a payment to me through Pay Pal and I will donate. Just think what $10 can do for these kids!

Here is a video of the students singing a welcome song and my small group singing their National Anthem. (Sorry, it’s quite loud, so turn down your volume.)

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

I am dedicating this Poetry Friday post to my mother-in-law, Anne Simon, who took me on an amazing adventure to Tanzania, Africa to celebrate her 85th birthday.

I have been blogging about this trip since I’ve returned.  You can read previous posts: Safe Water for Eastern Africa, Tarangire National Park, Maasai village, and Lions on the Serengeti.

The only way to thank Anne “Minga” for this fabulous opportunity was to thoroughly enjoy it.  I immersed myself in Presence, my one little word, taking in the experience with my whole mind, body, and spirit.

On the day of Minga’s birthday, we set out at sunrise to tour areas on the Serengeti with rocky outcrops called kopjes.  Kopjes are places where lions linger and hide their young.  We stopped to have breakfast on one of these kopjes.  Before any of us got out of the vehicles, though, our guides scouted and clapped away any animal life.

Kopjes (pronounced ko-pee-us) dotted the Serengeti landscape.

Kopjes (pronounced ko-pee-us) dotted the Serengeti landscape.

 

Singing "Happy Birthday" to Anne on the kopjes breakfast.

Singing “Happy Birthday” to Anne on the kopjes breakfast.

I created a video to capture the birthday celebration complete with a cake and the camp workers singing a favorite celebration song, Hakuna Matata (not the Disney version).

 

Since today is Poetry Friday, I found an appropriate poem to share.  “The Journey” by Mary Oliver describes the individual that my mother-in-law is, strong and independent.  I am very grateful that she is willing to share her journey with me.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

–Mary Oliver

This poem, along with many other poems from women, can be found in The Woman in this Poem, selected and introduced by Georgia Heard.

 

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Serengeti tent camp

Serengeti tent camp

The drive to the Serengeti was a long, hard, bumpy, rocky road.  Our vehicle was struck by a flying rock that shattered the lower left windshield.  No one was hurt, but we all jumped out of our skin for a moment.

The tent camp on the Serengeti was not as luxurious as the lodges we had been staying in.  Alex, our guide, handed out the “digital keys,” a cardboard strip with our names and tent number on it.  He warned us to keep the tent zipped at all times.  He said to scan the tent for snakes and to blow the whistle for emergencies.

I admit I was too scared to sleep much the first night.  When we came into the tent something flew out and hit me in the head.  I tried to turn on the lights and ended up de-wiring the place.  So we were left with no electricity.  I decided this was a whistle blowing opportunity, but hence our whistle would not blow.  (A protection against irrational females like me, I’m sure.)

The next day I realized that the thing that hit me in the head was a switch for the lights.  When I pulled on it, the wires disconnected.

Our showers were adventurous as well.  Behind the tent was a bucket and pulley system.  When you were ready for a shower, you would let the boy in back know and he would load the bucket with warm water and hoist it up.  To turn on the water, you would pull a string hanging from the shower head.  Each day we were given a specific time to shower and about 5 gallons of water.  I actually came to appreciate these showers immensely.

Sunrise on the Serengeti

Sunrise on the Serengeti

Each morning we were awakened at 5:30 AM and headed out about 6:30 to find wildlife activity.  We encountered lions almost daily.  Each time was a miracle.  I’ve compiled a video of these views as well as our guides evening talk about lion behaviors. Simba is the Kiswahili word for lion.

 

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