There’s No Place Like Home

*click* *click* *click*… There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home…. *click* *click* *click*

Dorothy, in the “The Wizard of Oz”

Cattails and sunset — August 10, 2017

Dahlias and sunset — August 10, 2017

The neighbors slowly heading off to bed — August 10, 2017

Evening walk — August 12, 2017

Enjoying a summer evening — August 12, 2016

Home doesn’t usually happen in a jiffy. It can take years — even decades — for the roots to go down so deep that no matter where a person goes in the world, he or she can feel the call of home.

Truly, there is no place like home.


Day #7 of a nature photo challenge. It’s my home.

If this is a challenge you would like to do, it’s pretty easy — 7 days of nature photographs taken by you.

The Elements

One of my favorite family trips was in June 2015 when we all traveled to British Columbia for Sam and Donna’s wedding.

The Pacific Northwest is God’s country. It’s wild and beautiful.

Sam drove us to an amazing vantage point, looking down on the city of Vancouver.

Sky (and earth and water)

It made me feel small and big at the same time.

That same day we visited Whytecliff Park where we climbed around on rocks and skipped stones in Horseshoe Bay.

Earth and Water

My Facebook profile picture is from there that day.

Earth and Water (and me in between)

Everything about that trip was wonderful. My family was all there. A dear friend joined us. The wedding was beautiful.

Since we had to fly out of Seattle, we spent a day there on the tail end of the trip.

We walked all around Seattle. Through Pike’s Market. Though the Olympic Sculpture Park. To the Space Needle.

We didn’t go up in the Space Needle, but instead went to Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum which is near the base. The intermingling of glass sculptures and native plants is stunning.

I sat for a while at the base of the “Sun”  in the heart of the garden —

Fire

A robin sang its familiar song. I could hear him long before I found him, perched on one of the rays of the sun.

I’m sure there’s an object lesson somewhere in that — but I’m not going to try to find it.

Rather than try to tie all these random thoughts together, I’ll leave with a quote:

I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.

Pete Hamill


In response to this week’s Photography Challenge: Elemental


My friend, Renee, tagged me in a photography challenge that involves posting nature photos (taken by me) for seven days. She did it on Facebook, but I’m going to do mine here, starting with far away places and moving closer to home every day.

For Day #4, I used pictures from Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA. I was just under 3000 miles from home!

I’m going to tag some of my favorite bloggers to take up the challenge too. If you’re tagged and don’t want to do it, that 110% fine with me. I totally understand.

…Relax (Sorry, I realized that I don’t even know your name!) — I’m tagging you. I know you don’t post many pictures, but maybe you can use 1,000 words instead. You do have a way with words. 🙂

 

Beautiful and Terrible

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.

Frederick Buechner

Looking down at the beach from Pointe du Hoc in Normandy. Of the 225+ Rangers that attacked, only 90 survived.

On my little journey of beautiful places drawing ever nearer to my home, today’s stop is Normandy.

Normandy itself was beautiful. I didn’t know I could so readily fall in love with a place that wasn’t my home. Even Wyoming took its time to grow on me.

But with Normandy, it was love at first sight.

Lush green farmland. Cows. Old stone buildings. History. Friendly people. Patisseries. Beaches.

The beaches are beautiful.

And terrible.

I couldn’t look at them without feeling a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat.

Beach view from the walkway at the American Cemetery in Normandy

This is a place where brave men sacrificed themselves for others. It doesn’t get more beautiful and terrible than that.

We’ve talked about taking a family trip to Normandy. I want my children to see and know what happened there.

“Do they have regular beaches there?” one of my children asked.

“Yes,” I said, because I had seen them — stretches of sand and ocean.

But I’m not sure I could play there, on these beaches where men died.

Imagine, if you will, that our soldiers hadn’t done what they did there. What a different world we would live in. It almost compels me to play there — and enjoy the freedom purchased with their sacrifice.


A friend tagged me in a photography challenge that involves posting nature photos (taken by me) for seven days. She did it on Facebook, but I’m going to do mine here, starting with far away places and moving closer to home every day.

Today, Day #3, is from Normandy, over 3400 miles from Cooperstown!

I’m going to tag some of my favorite bloggers to take up the challenge too. If you’re tagged and don’t want to do it, that 110% fine with me. I totally understand.

Vanessa — I’m tagging you because I love your garden pictures. Flowers always make me smile.

Little Things in Dubrovnik

“I suspect many of us walk past true gems every day without considering where they came from and what journeys they have endured.”

Richard LaMotte, Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems

After our morning swim in the Adriatic Sea, Leah set about collecting sea glass. She gathered quite a few pieces in her hand and then left them in a little pile on the beach. The fun for her was in the finding.

Sea glass from the Adriatic

I imagined some child coming to the beach after we left and being delighted by the little collection of green, white, and amber bits. The pieces had lost the smooth shimmer of new glass,  but they had a better beauty given to them by the Adriatic Sea.

For me the lesson was in leaving it behind. I am a saver from a long line of savers. We save everything. In fact, I took a few pebbles from the beach home that day. They were so pretty and I wanted to remember that morning.

They’re still in my bag, though.

And the snapshot of the sea glass is enough to help me remember.

I need to learn to let go — of stuff.

On the sea glass morning, when we got back to our apartment, a small turtle poked his head out in the garden.

A little turtle in the garden at our Airbnb

One of the biggest lessons from my European travels is that Americans need to slow down. We’re always in a hurry, always watching the clock. So much of the world takes life at a more leisurely pace — and it’s wonderful.

It’s good for the body.

It’s good for the soul.

Take a walk with a turtle and behold the world in pause.

Bruce Feiler


My friend, Renee, tagged me in a photography challenge that involves posting nature photos (taken by me) for seven days. She did it on Facebook, but I’m going to do mine here, starting with far away places and moving closer to home every day.

Today, Day #1, is from Dubrovnik, where I was 4500 miles from home!

I’m going to tag some of my favorite bloggers to take up the challenge too. If you’re tagged and don’t want to do it, that 110% fine with me. I totally understand.

Anna Brown — I’m tagging you first for three reasons.

One — because when I first discovered you, you were in MONGOLIA. Talk about the farthest reaches of the world. Plus, I think you’re still pretty far away — somewhere in the wilds of Canada.

Two — you’re somewhere in the wilds of Canada (did I already say that?) and I think Canada is absolutely beautiful.

Three — I love when you write, and you haven’t written much lately, my friend. (nudge, nudge)

 

The Texture of War

Imagine to yourself a gloomy city, all burning with brimstone and noisome pitch, full of citizens who are unable to leave it.

St. Francis de Sales, in Meditation VII: Of Hell

Leah and I watch a short movie about the 1991 siege on Dubrovnik. In it, we saw people clustered in doorways and pressed against walls as they watched the attack on their city. Buildings burned in the background. When I read St. Francis’ description of hell, I thought of Dubrovnik.

When I traveled to the former Yugoslavia, reminders of war were all around me.

I saw shells of buildings, or were they shelled buildings, or both?

I’m the kind of person who averts her eyes in war movies, but I couldn’t avert my eyes there.

I drank it up, storing far more images in my mind than I did on my camera.

War leaves a texture all its own. Even 25 years later.

From Dubrovnik:

Dubrovnik

From Mostar:

Mostar

From Sarajevo:

Sarajevo

From Gradačac:

View from an armored train outside Gradačac

We stayed in a castle in Gradačac. Here’s a picture of the castle in 1992.

 

And here’s what it looked when we were there:

Gradačac castle

Rebuilding brings hope.

Summer Swimming

Hitting is like swimming. Once you learn the stroke, you never forget it.

Stan (The Man) Musial, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame 1969

A baseball quote, because Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend is closing in, but the topic is swimming.

I hadn’t gone swimming in well over a year. Our local pool had been closed, and I’m rather loathe to be seen in a swim suit.

But during my travels, I swam multiple times.

I got in the first time because I was so hot. Leah and I took a kayaking tour around Lokrum Island. The guides had told us the temperature in Celsius which didn’t mean a whole lot to me. 

But it was hot.

On our way around the island, we stopped at a cave. Leah was, I think, the first to hop in the water. Then other people from the group jumped in — so, finally, I joined them. It was so refreshing. Refreshingly cold.

That was swim number one.

A few days later, we walked down a gazillion steps to a little swim area we had noticed on our way to and from the Airbnb.

We got there early. A young woman was doing yoga on the pier while a handful of people were already in the water. Of course, Leah ventured in first. I followed.

Even at 8 AM, Dubrovnik was hot, so the water felt good — cold and refreshing. I swam to the far post, to the mouth of a cave, and back to the post. I hadn’t forgotten how to swim, despite my hiatus.

Swim number three took place during a tour from Mostar. We spent a few hours at a place called Kravice Falls.

Our tour group consisted of Leah, a family of four from Sweden, a young woman who was a recent college graduate, and me.

The two girls from the Swedish family immediately headed for the water. The rest of us sat at a table and ordered some lunch. The girls called and waved to their parents from the water.

“The younger one just learned to swim on this trip,” said the mother.

Subconsciously, I scanned the swim area for lifeguards. Nada.

“A week or so ago, she just decided she would swim,” the mother continued.

There were ropes out in the swim area, but no clear designations what they were all about. People just seemed to swim wherever they wanted.

“There are no lifeguards here,” I said. “Does that make you nervous?”

I asked because it was making me nervous.

“No,” said the mom, “they’ll be fine.”

I realized that Americans are far more safety conscious than the rest of the world.

And that someone who has been a lifeguard/swim instructor/swim coach can’t turn off that part of her brain.

I swam at Kravice Falls with the young woman who was part of our group. We got in the middle of the swim area on our way to the falls, and she said, “I’m feeling really panicky. I don’t think I can make it.”

We stopped and treaded water for a while. Right there, in the middle, we paused and talked. I told her that I was a swim coach. I asked her about her life. I watched the anxiety dissolve before we continued to the falls where we sat on a rock together and let the water beat down on our backs.

My fourth swim was at a lake in Bosnia.

One of the men from Gradacac had made arrangements for us to visit a scuba club. At a lake. In Bosnia.

We didn’t scuba, but we did go out on a boat tour of the lake.

Our sweet translator, Amina, didn’t know how to swim, so she put on a life jacket. And clutched Nicole’s leg.

I reminded her to breathe. And took lousy pictures of her.

After the boat ride, I swam out in the lake. It was cool (not cold, like the Adriatic) and refreshing.

Swimming again gave me great satisfaction.

I hadn’t forgotten how.

I still loved it.

Now that the pool has reopened, I need to get back.

Počitelj

Coke machines aren’t unusual — except when seen on a trail from a medieval fortification.

One of my favorite days on my recent trip to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina involved a full day tour from Mostar. Our tour guide, Emir, was very knowledgable, engaging, and absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend him. (See: Kravice Waterfalls, Pocitelj Old Town and Blagaj Tekke Day Trip) I’m sure I’ll write more about his tour in the days to come.

But Počitelj.

It was our last stop after a full day of sightseeing. Emir drove us to the top of a little mountain or large hill — I’m not sure what the distinction is.

Side note: Bosnia is a country of panoramas. Every time I looked out the window of the train or car or bus, I was struck by the beauty of the place. A town nestled in a valley. Sheep grazing on a hillside. Haystacks. Farmland. Mountains. Rivers.

From the top at Počitelj, we looked out over the Neretva valley and down on a cluster of homes and the mosque.

According to Wikipedia:

The entire historic urban site of Počitelj and surrounding area suffered extensive collateral damage during the 1992-1996 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Namely, it was heavily damaged by Croatian forces during the 1993 Bosnian War. Following the bombing, Počitelj’s sixteenth-century master works of Islamic art and architecture were destroyed and a large part of the town’s population was displaced.

That’s Bosnia — beauty and war damage intertwined with each other everywhere. Destruction and rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding.

Hope.

Everyone else in our group climbed to the top of this tower, but the stairs of Dubrovnik had done me in. (I made 5x my stair goal one day in Dubrovnik.) I relish alone time, too, and saw this as an opportunity to sit and just enjoy the views.

The place was spectacular.

The Coca-Cola machine on the path down, undoubtedly pre-war, was a reminder of a different time.

I laughed when I first saw it; it was so unexpected.

But if I think too much about it, I may cry.