Meg Noble Peterson

Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

Category: Maplewood New Jersey


Yes, it’s true. Every year I go back for more, and I am never disappointed. This year I journeyed back to New Jersey and New York from March 6-20. In keeping with the theme of this website, I realize that to many people a sojourn to the East Coast is, indeed, travel—strange, exotic, and unpredictable. Heaven knows that this trip was all three, with predictions of fierce storms in New York City and the Eastern seaboard. Fortunately, the first one never materialized or disappeared, magically, in one night, leaving the snow piled high in northern New Jersey, but New York City dry as a bone. The second, however, arrived the day after I returned to Whidbey Island. Pretty good planning, eh?

For those of you who love to see snowflakes falling, here’s a progression of the storm through the day.


The next two weeks were a mad scramble, visiting old friends and feeding my theater addiction. The time was short in New Jersey and because of the heavy snow I missed several get-togethers, but did attend an excellent concert of the Plainfield Symphony, where I had played in the violin section for fifty-four years. Best Shostakovich ever! And after that, I danced until midnight to the rock band of Steve Gorelnick, the fiance of Cheryl Galante, where I stayed in NJ. Bless you, Cheryl and Steve!

For ten days I roamed the streets of Manhattan, learned more than I could absorb from B & H Camera, and ferreted out tickets (one of my favorite pastimes) for such plays as: The Play That Goes Wrong, an hilarious farce, Farinelli and the King, starring the inimitable Mark Rylance, Three Tall Women, the superb revival of Edward Albee’s play, starring Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, and Alison Pill, and Harry Clarke, with Billy Crudup, another of my favorite actors.

While I was enjoying NYC, I stayed in the village apartment of my old friend, James Wilson. You may remember him from the trips I took to Ladakh in 2008 and Myanmar in 2007.

We went to two superb musicals; The Band’s Visit, and Come From Away. James lives in the heart of Greenwich Village and what more beautiful spot to be as spring is unfolding and the sun is shining. These words come from an envious Whidbey Islander.

There is something very special to me about walking out of the theater in the late evening on a clear night, enjoying the fresh air and lights, and strolling along the avenue, having just experienced an uplifting production. It’s the “All’s right with the world” feeling that we often don’t allow ourselves.

Several other friends, who shared musicals and plays with me, were Barry Hamilton and his wife, Ruth Klukoff, Phyllis Bitow, Terri Pedone, Paul Sharar, and grandson, Adam Bixler, and girlfriend, Allie Francis. I finally got to see Beautiful, The Carole King musical, and an excellent revival of Hello, Dolly! with Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber. Wow! What incredible dancing!

Ruth and Barry in the Village.

One day I wandered around Washington Square Park near NYU (Actually, I got lost and ended up there, but what’s new? Pretty soon I’ll be outfitted with a dog collar and chip), and tried, unsuccessfully, to video swarms of pigeons flying away. It made me think of the birds at the Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal.



Midweek, I spent a special afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Grace Polk, a travel writer, tour leader, and devotee of the Arts, and the daughter of my longtime friend and dance therapist, the late Lisa Polk. This gave me a chance to walk from west to east through Central Park from the Museum of Natural History to the Met, and enjoy a new exhibition of parks and gardens, which included exquisite paintings of flowers from old masters and artists who had perfected the art of flower reproduction. Click on the photos to see them larger.

As you know, I can never get enough of Lincoln Center, and on my last night in New York, Phyllis, Terri, and I went to see Semiramide. The evening was pristine clear with lights reflecting off the fountains. And those chandeliers! They always mesmerize me as they do their slow rise to the ceiling just before curtain time.

After the opera, Phyllis drove me back to snowy New Jersey as she had so many times over the past ten years. How great to have a friend who enjoys driving in the City and is not daunted by highways and bright lights. As a percussionist, she drives a large SUV, so we always had a coterie of enthusiasts taking advantage of her generosity.

Postscript: I feel myself very fortunate to be a part of a community here in Langley that also produces some amazing theater, art, and music. Upon my return from The Big Apple I was greatly impressed by a new production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie put on by WICA, the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. In fact, I liked the production and staging better than the one I saw in NYC a year ago.


Oh, yes, Nat King Cole, there was a time when that song warmed and thrilled me. That is, until I realized that living on Whidbey Island in the summer is anything but lazy or hazy. Crazy is the only thing that fits! Shakespeare in repertory graces our open-air theater, the wind blows over Puget Sound, and I don my polar fleece watching the sun set from my deck. And there is enough music and dancing to wear out the most avid teenager on any night of the week.  Given our demographic, however, you can be sure that a lot of healthy adults are also gracing the streets, halls, and fields where the revelry takes place. Choose your poison: bluegrass, country, folk, jazz, classical, Baroque. And before the evening begins, wander through endless art exhibits from Greenbank to Langley. There’s no time to be lazy!

I do bless this weather when I hear from friends in St. Louis, Florida, or Texas, who are sweltering, while we look up at a blue sky with whipped cream clouds, and enjoy cool breezes that make us forget the dark, damp days of January and February.

orchids mom june 2016I arrived home from my three-week sojourn on the East Coast to find my orchids waiting to embrace me and the gardens in peak production, giving me the fresh produce I had so missed while away. And I looked forward to the frequent strolls I take along the shore at dusk. langley sea view june2016

maxwelton fourth july 2016 Tom_7566maxwelton fourth july 2016 Cary_7549

The very next day was the annual Maxwelton 4th of July parade with outrageous costumes and themes ranging from children riding red, white and blue decorated tricycles to politicians campaigning to local non-profits promoting their cause and locals just promoting a cause… my daughter Cary was distributing snap peas on behalf of the School Farm and Garden Program, and son Tom was part of a group bringing awareness to climate change, with humor.

New construction is going on all around Langley, and the utility company is having a ball in front of my apartment, where a small lake has been growing for two weeks, the result of a major glitch in the stormwater system.  I told the engineers that I wouldn’t swim in it until they removed the mosquitoes. (Actually, I have yet to see one out here, but something is germinating!). If I were six year old, I’d really love to watch dozens of burly men digging up the street and painting patterns on the pavement where an underground labyrinth waits to be discovered, thus reducing my lake to a mere duck pond. Yes, there’s activity everywhere!

Upper Langley, the new affordable housing community started by daughter, Cary, and three like-minded friends, is now in full swing, with builders digging foundations and homes arising right in front of our eyes. There’s excitement and anticipation in the air—an understatement to be sure.

My trip to the East Coast was divided into the New Jersey/New York City experience, the Pennsylvania rustic Mt. Laurel Autoharp Gathering (MLAG), and a visit to family, ending at our summer cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee near Wolfeboro, NH. Driving a rental car for seven hours, two days in a row, flanked by trucks going 70 mph or more, is quite a change from my quiet island. Even Seattle traffic takes a back seat to the highways of New York and Pennsylvania and New England. But I lived to tell the tale. It’s one of those “adventures” I don’t care to repeat anytime soon.

I was able to overlap, briefly, with daughter Martha, in Maplewood, NJ, at the home of a dear friend, Cheryl Galante, the world’s most hospitable human being. Martha sold her home a year ago and is now relocating in Denver, CO. She started her cross-country drive the next day, and shortly after arriving in Denver, headed for Australia and a full teaching schedule (website:  But not, I hasten to add, before visiting her grandson and MY great grandson.

This trip, rich in the rekindling of old friendships, started with a visit to my grandson, Adam Bixler, who lives in a charming community in the East Village. The rest of the week I stayed in the West Village apartment of James Wilson, with whom I had traveled to Myanmar and Ladakh, and, happily, I did not swelter as I had last year. Wonder of wonders! The weather was marvelous. I got lucky before the “heat dome” moved in! And just picture me walking down the quaint streets past small historic houses and courtyards with Barry Hamilton, an actor and theater director, and his wife, Ruth Klukoff, a violin teacher in New York and Connecticut, to be treated to fabulous Middle Eastern cuisine and an afternoon by the Hudson looking across the water at the old Lackawanna terminal. Yes, New York has its pastoral settings, its park benches, and its flowering trees, and we enjoyed them all. I will not enumerate all the friends I enjoyed, nor the great restaurants I experienced, but I will grace you with a list of the superb plays and musicals I attended. Give the addict her due!

I took the family to An American in Paris. It was a repeat, since I had been wowed by it last year. Next came a special evening with Phyllis Bitow and Terri Pedone at the Tony Award musical Fun Home, and a reunion with Paul Sharar at The Father, to be mesmerized by the Tony Award winning performance of Frank Langella. James and I indulged in Something Rotten and the superb revival of She Loves Me, and Phyllis returned for the ABT production of Prokoviev’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet at Lincoln Center.

It was a heady visit and the next week at MLAG just kept the ball rolling with more superb musicianship, concerts, and visits with old friends, masters of the autoharp. The days were packed with workshops and performances by small group ensembles and headliners such as the laid back Tom Chapin, who brings an audience together in the spirit of Pete Seeger. Thanks so much to the new director, Gregg Averett, and the program directors, Neal and Coleen Walters. And thanks to George Orthey for the use of his lovely home away from home!

On my last week in the East, the three Noble sisters, of whom I am the middle, met in Peterborough, NH, and traveled on to our cottage, where nothing, except actual icebergs, keeps me from the water. Within a week I had defrosted and felt like a million dollars. I just can’t get enough of the spectacular sunsets over Lake Winnipesaukee.cottage sunset 2016b cottage sunset 2016a

mt washington 2016aAnd I never miss the opportunity to return to Wolfeboro and enjoy watching the “Old Mount” pull up to the dock as I indulge in a double dip ice cream from Bailey’s Bubble.

It was with lots of great feelings that I returned to Whidbey Island, to then head off to another cold lake at the base of Mt. Baker, as Jon Pollack and I start our annual ten-day hiking trip into the Cascades.

This will be a total escape from the craziness, which is not just summer, but which has spread throughout this nation for almost two years during the most unusual, deeply disturbing presidential campaign of my long life. Gird your loins, folks.


How cool is that coming from the world’s best hip surgeon, Dr. James Pritchett of the Swedish Orthopedic Institute in Seattle?

I knew he was the doctor for me way back in June, shortly before my operation, when I asked him if he thought I could climb in the Himalayas by November.

“Why not?” he answered. And guess what, that’s exactly what I intend to do! (Stay tuned)

He did such a perfect job installing a ceramic ball and hammering some fearsome, fancy metal device into my femur, that I walked right through security three weeks ago on my visit to the East Coast and didn’t even set off the alarm. I fairly danced my way through two airports and arrived in Newark, bionic and elated, and ready to take on the Big Apple with a vengeance.

What you discover, as you tell every stranger in sight that you can squat like never before and run up flights of stairs like a gazelle, is that, if they don’t yawn and roll their eyes, 50% have had a similar operation and are eager to share their own success with you. Even the man operating the Xray machine in the Denver airport told of his numerous replaced joints. He did everything but show me his scars. It’s like a brand new fraternity/sorority that I’ve never experienced. Get a replacement—pick any limb—and you’ll find yourself in good company! Bravo for modern orthopedic medicine…and Dr. Pritchett.

My visit started with a whirlwind trip to Rhinecliff, NY, where two close friends, Louise Vitello and Richard Adams were married. What a gala celebration it was with three close families and their respective children enjoying the happiness of a very special couple. I danced for three hours to music that allowed me to show off my expertise in the Lindy, known in the “olden days” as jitterbugging. I think the grandchildren were impressed, which is always gratifying.

My daughter, Martha, whose house in Maplewood, NJ, had just been put on the market, left the next day for a month of teaching Hannah Somatics in England, whereupon I headed for NYCity.

Knowing my penchant for the theater, it won’t come as a surprise that I took in four shows, three while camping out at my buddy James Wilson’s pad in the West Village, and one with my old friend, Paul Sharar, from New Jersey. In all that time I made my way by subway and on foot. Not once did I use a taxi. A quick rundown includes the amazing Jefferson Mays in The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, where Mays plays seven parts. Totally fabulous! The inimitable Matilda, Roald Dahl’s story of every child’s nightmare. Fabulous as well. If/Then, a new musical that was a bit too predictable, but had good singing and dancing, and the long-awaited Indian Ink by one of my favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard, starring Rosemary Harris and a marvelous young English actress, Romola Garai.

New York was lovely as it always is in autumn, and I was able to catch up with friends Jackie Herships, Grace Polk, and Barry Hamilton and enjoy strolling around what to me are still magical sections of the Village. I also spent a somber, thoughtful hour at the World Trade Center Memorial, now open so the public can enjoy the beautiful fountains and the new tower. The photos show some of the construction for the new subway station being built.

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I cut my stay in the City short to head for Northfield, MA, with my sister, Cary Santoro, to visit my other sister, Anne Magill, before attending a memorial for a dear friend, Lynne Warrin. She and I had been friends for forty-five years and co-authored the play, Thank You, Dear, which was performed in Deerfield, MA. The loss of such a close friend is devastating, especially one who has been so instrumental in my work and has shared so many common interests in the field of summer camping, writing, education, and music. Lynne had been a longtime teacher at Eaglebrook School. Among her many students over the years was King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose country she had visited recently, as his guest.

Lynne Warrin, 1932-2014

Lynne Warrin, 1932-2014

After the memorial, Cary and I drove to our family cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee near Alton, NH. We spent the evening around a blazing fire and left early the next morning just as the mist was rising from the dock and outlining the shoreline and distant islands. As we wended our way back home we experienced the turning of the leaves, that banquet of color that defines New England as it hunkers down for winter.

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What better way to know that you’re back in the Northwest than to see Mt. Rainier looming on the horizon from the plane?


Footnote: Lest I sell my home town short, let me say that there have been two superb productions in Langley over the past two months; one at the Outcast Theater which mounted the moving drama, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness, and the WICA (Whidbey Island Center for the Arts) production of the challenging Sondheim musical, Into The Woods. You couldn’t ask for better performances.

Jon Pollack, Christy Korrow (who, you may remember, went to Nepal with Cary and me two years ago and whose husband, Chris Korrow, has just completed a splendid documentary entitled, Dancing With Thoreau), and I are also availing ourselves of the several performances of operas streamed from the Metropolitan Opera in NYCity to Seattle theaters. It’s challenging, for it means an early ferry ride for us on Saturday morning, to catch a 1 PM matinee from New York. Jon, too, has a bit of a commute from Tacoma. But it’s worth it!

I’ve also become acquainted with gypsy jazz as I marveled at the DJANGO FEST NORTHWEST, which is held every year for a week in September. This is a style of music that was introduced by Django Reinhardt in the late 20’s and 30’s. Langley is besieged at this time by players from around the world. All day long you can hear musicians playing guitars, bass, fiddle, percussion, and wind instruments, as they serenade the public in every possible venue. And in the evening are the concerts at WICA. It opened a whole new world of music for me! 

Next up: Plans for a return to India, Nepal, and possibly Sikkim this November. And I haven’t forgotten about those photos of my Bhutan trip a year ago.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, or, if you’re a purist, HAPPY ALL HALLOWS’ EVE!


I was one of the lucky New Jerseyites who did NOT lose her home or have a tree fall on her house. It fell in the backyard, instead, but, since it came from my neighbor’s yard, and he is handy with a chain saw, it has now been spirited away. The only signs of its having visited me is a broken fence and smashed dogwood tree. There are those who feel that this is nature’s way of saying to our political candidates, “Hey, what about global warming and the environment? Nobody seems to be talking about that any more and it’s just getting worse. So pay attention for a change!”

My beautiful backyard

The root of the problem

And this is nothing! Giant trees were uprooted all over town, and there are those who still have no electricity. I was only in the dark for five days. Fortunately, I had the foresight to install a backup to my sump pump after Hurricane Irene flooded my basement, so was spared last year’s misery. It’s actually heartwarming to see how people pull together during these near-tragic experiences. Churches, libraries, stores, and restaurants all welcomed those who had no heat or light. Free meals were served, phones were charged, children were tended, all in a loving, helpful spirit. The streets of Maplewood Village were teeming with families just walking together and enjoying community interaction. For the first time I encountered a long line outside our movie theater. And the two pizza parlors were bursting at the seams. It was almost like New York City on a Friday night…crowds everywhere.

All of this came days before I was to put my house on the market and head into the great unknown (which means that I really don’t know what the future will bring, but who does?). I returned in September from my usual mountain climbing in the Olympic mountains of Washington state (I’ll tell you about that in another blog), and decided that it was time to unclutter my life. Just trying to walk through the piles of “stuff” in my attic made me sick to my stomach. I bet many of you have felt the same way and come to the same conclusion…and others have just been putting it off, because it’s such a monumental task. I can understand why. It’s a horror! So while uncluttering my files and filling the dump with years of unnecessary memorabilia, I suddenly decided that I didn’t need a house and a yard, either, and had never found that maintenance was my forte. I’ve owned houses of varying sizes since 1958. Enough, already. Time to sell.

What I didn’t know is that nobody just sells a house these days. They style or stage it so that not one semblance of the owner’s personality is betrayed. God forbid that a human being once inhabited this domain. The goal is to get as near to Pottery Barn or a movie set as you can. Remove all rugs, all stair carpeting, and all photographs of family gatherings. And definitely remove books from bookcases like the floor to ceiling display of all my favorite authors past and present, and replace them with Roseville pottery and classy knick-knacks.  Dig out the crystal goblets you received as wedding gifts a hundred years ago, and put out a half-filled decanter of Scotch surrounded by shot glasses, and you show a family that doesn’t read, doesn’t cook (all counters are bare), doesn’t wash, but finds plenty of time to drink and look at candlesticks. Within a week you’re frantically searching for your tax forms, your toothbrush, and your aspirin. They’re all secreted away in the attic, the cellar, or miscellaneous bureau drawers. Living like this is like playing a constant game of Concentration. It may be good for the brain, but it’s murder on the nerves. 

I’m relating this to you, dear reader, because I want you to be forewarned. If you have had a similar experience trying to sell in the modern real estate market, do tell me. We can laugh and cry together!

The only good aspect of this rush to sell is that I shall leave for Nepal on November 14, three days after my Open House, and be lost in the Langtang region of the Himalayas for a month. By then I will have recuperated, the house may be sold (I have a wonderful daughter who will fend for me in my absence, while I shall be trekking with the other daughter), or I may have fallen off a cliff. At any rate I shall NEVER EVER  buy or sell another house!

Next post will be from Kathmandu.


This is the time of year when I don’t want to leave my home state. It’s just too beautiful, and the breezes are gentle and temperate as if teasing me into believing that Jersey heat and humidity are not just around the corner. Live in the moment is my motto. And this moment is divine!

May also brought the cancellation of two of my favorite Friday night television shows—the incomparable Bill Moyers Journal and David Brancaccio’s NOW. I can understand that Moyers wants to retire after years of investigative journalism, but I cannot understand why NOW is not continuing. Its carefully-researched exposes went deep into uncharted waters and uncovered problems that were dealt with nowhere else on television. And it showed some very innovative solutions from concerned individuals around the world. This, of course, is not always popular, but, for me, has been eye-opening. I’ve often mentioned some of the unusual programs presented by NOW and here’s another—a recent discussion with Josh Fox, an ordinary citizen turned documentary filmmaker, who won a special jury prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for his film, Gasland, inspired when the gas company came to his hometown in Pennsylvania and offered him an exorbitant amount of money for his land.

This started Fox on a search throughout rural America to explore the effects of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) thousands of feet underground that, he discovered, endangers the purity of our water supply. Shockingly, there are plans underway which, if implemented, could severely compromise one of the purest of our water systems, that of New York City.

During his travels, documented in the film, Fox discovered these results of fracking: toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, brutal illnesses, disastrous explosions, and kitchen sinks where water from the spigot burst into flames. Go to and see for yourself how the oil and gas companies are causing the irreversible pollution of our drinking water.

The season ended for the Plainfield Symphony with a stunning performance of Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by Charles Prince, in conjunction with the Crescent Choral Society led by Ron Thayer. This will be my 50th season playing violin with the orchestra, but it takes a lot more practice these days to keep up with the demanding schedule. Thus, such activities as blogging are put on hold during the intense build up to each concert.

It has also been a great month for theater and opera. Some of the highlights are Shaw’s Candida at the Irish Repertory, Enron with the talented Norbert Leo Butz, Next Fall, a marvelously acted tragicomedy on Broadway, Strindberg’s searing drama, Creditors, directed by Alan Rickman at BAM, and Martin McDonagh’s wickedly funny Behanding in Spokane with the deadpan, super-funny, and brilliant Christopher Walken. I have to be honest and say that I was disappointed in Family Week by Beth Henley.


Opera included Rossini’s Armida with the flawless Renee Fleming, Der Fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman) with the powerful Deborah Voigt, and a concert by the incomparable Shanghai Quartet in residence at Montclair State University.

Now, I’ve used up all my superlatives, except to say that I wish you all a glorious spring and a not-too-hot summer.




One day after saying goodbye to winter at Harriman State Park, I awoke to a paradise of flowering trees and bushes. And this is just the beginning! The maples, dogwood, and azaleas are right behind. Too bad there were so many telephone and electric wires spoiling some of these views, but we’re still lucky to have so much beauty lining our city streets.

Forsythia flanking the golf course

Lush today, gone tomorrow

Those gorgeous magnolias! Here today, gone tomorrow….

As we move into a new season, here is a theater update for all my like-minded addicts around the world.

To celebrate this season of renewal, I enjoyed a stunning production of Hamlet at the Met, an opera by Ambroise Thomas, the 19th century French composer. Outstanding performances were given by the English baritone, Simon Keenlyside, and the Canadian soprano, Jane Archibald.

At the end of February I played in an all-Russian concert with The Plainfield Symphony, featuring music by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, playing his 5th symphony, my favorite.

Yes, I was able to get tickets for the last two segments of Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Cycle at the Signature Theater. This was theater at its very best and I hated to see it end. After the first segment I had an interesting exchange with the actress, Sarah Jessica Parker, who stopped me as I was leaving, having mistaken me for one of the actors (surely not the ingénue, I quipped).

Another fine play by Susan -Lori Parks was The Book of Grace at  the Public Theater. We were treated to an hour-long discussion with her and several cast members after the performance.  I had been lucky enough to see her Pulitzer price winning hit, Topdog/ Underdog several years ago.

The Pearl Theater at the City Center presented a fabulous adaptation of Hard Times by Charles Dickens. It always amazes me when six people can play a plethora of characters, changing on a dime right in front of you.

Another excellelnt production at the Minetta Lane Theatre was 4Play, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, doing their usual hilarious, off-the-wall juggling, dancing, miming, and singing. I don’t know when I’ve laughed so much.


And finally, I was blown away by the richness and versatility of the Broadway musical, Fela!, conceived and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, and based on the life of the Nigerian singer from the late ‘70’s, Fela Kuti.

Keep tuned. There’s more just around the corner and yes, there are those travel rules. I haven’t forgotten. They’re compounding!

One final note: People ask me how I keep climbing and traveling without the usual aches and pains of age. I’ll tell you how. First of all, it’s that three-mile walk everyday, but more than that, I do Hanna Somatic exercises, taught to me by several practitioners, including my daughter, Martha Peterson. I’m so lucky to have her close by for sessions and classes. For those who are having knee, back, neck, or shoulder problems (too much computer?), I suggest that you visit her blog, which is full of great tips, videos, and photos to help keep you strong, playful, and on-the-go. What more can you ask? Just go to the website and see for yourself.

And while you’re at it, do sign up for my RSS feed at the top of the page. Then you’ll automatically get my blog.

© 2019 Meg Noble Peterson & Site by Matt McDowell