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

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I take a small detour from my Nepalese journey to tell you that I just returned from a beautiful week in sunny Denver, CO, to visit my granddaughter, her husband, and my first GREAT grandchild. And great he is, cheeks and all! What a family they are, and what a delightful visit, which included a huge blizzard over one weekend, another of which, I understand, is predicted for this coming weekend. There seems to be no end to the weather variations in the Rocky Mountains. I was also able to see my Autoharp buddy, Bonnie Phipps from Boulder, and my nephew, David Magill, from Denver.

bunny photo mom 30april16aThe day after I returned I had a jolting experience. It was the first time I had ever hit an animal on the road, and, although Langley-ites have varying opinions regarding what to do about the proliferation of the rabbit population as a result of the summer festivities at the Fairgrounds, killing them by car is not one of the options.

I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a struggling animal. OMIGOD, it’s dying, I thought. What shall I do? I hesitated. I couldn’t bear to go back and finish it off…squish a rabbit on purpose? Nor could I bear to see it suffer. I slowly pulled away and with a heavy heart made my way home.

As I dragged myself up the stairs to my apartment, my neighbor said, consolingly, “Call the police. They will check on it.”

“Oh, do you really think so?” What a brilliant idea!

“Hello, my name is Meg Peterson, and I think I just hit a bunny rabbit on Edgecliff Rd. near Furman, and it may be dying. I wanted you to know, in case you can help.”

A very pleasant officer, Marge, assured me that she would send an officer to check on it, and, if it was suffering, “dispatch” it. She took my name, and assured me that this was not a felony and it was nice of me to report the incident.

An hour later I received a call from an Officer Patrick, who said that another policeman had gone to the location I specified, but found no bunny there.

“It’s a mystery,” he said, “but maybe it was not badly injured and just hopped away. I’ll go back and check it out.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” I gushed.

“Well, we appreciate when citizens take an interest in the wildlife and cleanliness of their community. I hope this will give you peace of mind, M’am. Again, if the rabbit is injured we will not let it suffer.”

This congenial conversation went on for a few more sentences, after which I gave my name and address, again, and was assured that I would not go on any list and had not done anything wrong.

I put the phone down and breathed a sign of relief. I love New York and New Jersey, but I cannot imagine having a chat with the local police department about the possible death of one furry creature on a side road. I’m really getting to like this place….



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Just to prove it, here are photos of the sunset on the longest day of the year, taken from my balcony.

This island abounds with gardens of all types–flower and vegetable, large and small. Many families have their own space in cooperative community plots and you can see homemade green houses springing up every year for specialty plants suited to the Northwest weather.

Two years ago my daughter, Cary, spearheaded the Good Cheer Garden for the Good Cheer Food Bank, which helps feed hundreds of families every year who would otherwise be without fresh produce. And this year she has successfully put into operation an extensive school garden program that provides garden-based education to grades 1 – 5 at the Elementary School and grade 7 at the Middle School, while introducing young people to the joys of growing, and eating, their own food.

Here is a video made in May as the garden was getting into full swing. It will give you some idea of the enthusiasm with which these youngsters view their experience in the school gardens. You have no idea how hard they work to plant, hoe, fertilize, and harvest these crops…nor how proud they are of their accomplishments. The video was produced by the South Whidbey Schools Foundation which has provided grant funding to the school gardens.

Click HERE to see the video.

On June 24th, at a special fundraiser for Nepal, Cary shared slides of places we trekked before the earthquake and the same areas after the devastation. Over $1800 was raised! A big thank you to those of you who responded to my first plea for help in the rebuilding of this country we hold so dear. And no words could possibly express my admiration and gratitude to those Nepalese friends who are on the front lines providing help, taking food and supplies to towns isolated in the mountains, and building homes and shelters as the monsoon season approaches.

I have already mentioned Crystal Mountain Treks and Grand Asian Journeys, its U.S. affiliate. These are the people with whom we trek every year. Not only have they been instrumental in getting food and supplies to isolated villages in the mountains, but Jwalant Gurung, the director of operations, has now developed a new plan to help rebuild his country. Here is an opportunity for those who love trekking in the mountains of Nepal and also wish to be of service at this crucial time.

Click HERE for the rebuilding tours that Jwalant is organizing this fall.


I’m an expert crasher. I try to average at least one major dive a year. Seems pretty frivolous to mention after all of the important news from Nepal. But this is not like an earthquake. It’s preventable. Just ask my children, who feel that if I’m trying to kill myself, this is an unceremonious way to die and needs serious addressing. So I hasten to remind them that I have never, repeat never, fallen on a trek or a mountain (except once on the top of Mt. Washington, where I understandably tripped over my new, unfamiliar hiking poles) or even on the sidewalks of Asian countries like Myanmar, where one misstep can land you in an open sewer with a broken leg. I specialize in monasteries, trains of questionable quality, and city streets where the pavement is supposed to be smooth. And where you don’t expect potholes or crooked pavement. If only my recent mishap had occurred in New York City I could have sued for a million dollars and been on easy street. But, alas, I had to pick Tacoma, Washington, unfamiliar territory for my Guardian Angel, who was probably snoozing, anyway, while my own thoughts were on the hike I was about to take with my buddy, Jon Pollack, of Annapurna fame. And therein lies the rub.

I’m always amazed at how few Good Samaritans there are at such times. There I was, having smacked my head on the pavement and scraped myself to a fare-thee-well from top to bottom, and in the process of wiping the blood from my clothes, when a man walked by, cigarette dangling from his mouth. “Are you OK?” he asked, desultorily.

“Oh, sure,” I replied. “I sit on the ground every Friday and bleed. It’s a religious ritual.”

“Hrrumpff,” and off he went leaving me to pick myself up and move my car to the garage where Jon and I continued packing. Forty Band Aids later we took off, and in seven hours were in beautiful Columbia River territory setting up camp for a three day hike in the woods.

Three weeks later, the hiking having been superb and my purple shiner almost gone, I started to have numbness in my left hand. When it moved to the face and my speech started slurring I got scared. Thus began a series of tests…CAT scan, MRI, and MRA. It was an education for me, and not one I care to repeat. Seems I sustained a small subdural hematoma which was attempting to re-absorb into my head, while poking into my right brain and causing me to babble. That’s all you need to know, except that all is well and I promise never to fall, again. It just ain’t worth it!

Here is the beginning of my summer hikes.

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Jwalant Gurung May 2015 earthquake aidMany of you have heard me speak with great admiration about Jwalant Gurung who has planned our treks to the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet in recent years. I mentioned him in my previous blog post, but since then have received some very heart-warming news about his ongoing, untiring efforts to help his fellow Nepalis after the devastating earthquake and aftershocks.

His big interest is in the children in the rural areas — schools, orphanages, and health. This can be seen from how he came to the aid of a young Nepali girl who had lost part of her leg. Click HERE for the article from online CNN about this.

Pam Perry, Director of Operations in the United States for his trekking company, Grand Asian Journeys, is raising funds to further assist Jwalant’s humanitarian aid work, especially the rebuilding of schools. You can donate HERE.

As I write this, Jwalant is starting another arduous trip into the mountains to reach villages that have not yet received aid because of their inaccessibility…carrying tarps, food, and medicines on his back. Here is more information from the Facebook page of Crystal Mountain Treks, Jwalant’s Nepali trekking company.

I urge you all to help as much as you can in rebuilding the lives and homes of those who have lost everything.


And it is and it will be for a long time to come. But that is not stopping thousands of people from rolling up their sleeves, pulling out their wallets, and tackling the problems head on. We’ve all read about it. We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching pictures. We’ve cried for those who are lost and for the beautiful relics of thousands of years of history that now lay in ruin. If we look at the big picture it seems hopeless. Countless people homeless, mountainsides still crumbling, roads destroyed by avalanches leaving whole villages isolated, a viable tourist industry crippled, cherished landmarks no more. But we don’t do that. We take each day as it comes as Nepal starts to rebuild.

2015-05-02-817I have many friends in Nepal. I’ve often said that it is my Shangri La. Fortunately, so far, nobody I’ve worked with or trekked with has died, but many have lost their homes. I received an email and photo from Pasang Lama, a man who works at the Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath. There was such sadness in his face that I hardly recognized him. He said his family was alive, but his house was gone. That was all he said. The picture says the rest.

P1070159Pasang is a man I talk and laugh with every year. He has a lovely family and I have never seen him without a huge grin on his face.

Here he is with his family last December.



Cary and I climbed in the Langtang region of Nepal in 2012. We wandered through this valley and through the town of Langtang, which, as you can see, is beneath overhanging cliffs. Here is the area we remember.

This is the view looking up the valley towards Langtang Village. Our fear is that this already slumped mountain is what let go in the earthquake, destroying the entire village.


Here is a picture looking down the valley at the village.

The following photos tell you about the beauty of this formerly idyllic spot. Click on first photo to start slide show.

I met last December with a friend I have known since he was a young man in 1988, and who became the mayor of Dhulikhel, a small town not far from Kathmandu. In his time in office he spearheaded the building of a university, a highly-acclaimed hospital, extensive new homes and businesses, a sewage disposal plant, recreational facilities, and a water treatment facility. In other words, he and his fellow citizens transformed Dhulikhel!

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B.P. and M.P at the Shechen Guest House in 2014

B.P. has written an impassioned letter to me and other friends telling of the need for help at this time. The Dhulikhel Hospital, which he helped found, has been inundated with earthquake survivors during the past few weeks.

I urge all of you who wish to help to examine this and the other websites below to see which one you choose to support. I know that these are not huge organizations with high administrative costs. Your money will get to the people who need it.

Here on Whidbey Island we have a Tibetan Buddhist sangha led by Kilung Rinpoche, who has already collected donations through the Kilung Foundation. These funds will be directed to organizations in Nepal that are helping remote mountain villages, as well as those in need in Kathmandu.

The Nepal Youth Foundation is another very reputable and established organization that is dedicated to help all earthquake victims.

Finally, I have just heard from Jwalant Gurung, who runs Crystal Mountain Treks, the organization with whom Cary and I have trekked for years. Every spring Jwalant comes to the United States and takes a group up Mt. Rainier to raise money for Nepalese orphanages through his organization 3Summits. Now he is raising money to help rebuild the lives and homes of his fellow-Nepalese through a Crowdrise fundraiser.

Please get in touch with me if you have any questions.


How many people over 65 (and that includes me) are roaming around the halls of mental asylums, clicking on every doorknob and cutting and pasting their inmates as they search for old photographs and lost documents, repeating, hysterically, pdf. mpf, hypertext,.doc.? I have come up with a solution: a new organization,Technology Anonymous for Technotards (TAT). It may not sound politically correct, but it will save your sanity. Who would like to join me? It meets every Wednesday at 6 PM at the Langley Marina on Puget Sound. Come dressed in your diving gear. It will be a long, dark night, but it sure beats Bedlam.

All of which is to announce that at long last I have had my website upgraded with new photos, incredible insights (just ask my children if you don’t believe it), and a clickable map of my travels that exhausts even me. It will be launched by the middle of May (cross your fingers), so watch for it! If my erstwhile webmaster, Matt McDowell (, survives the ordeal, he has very kindly agreed to be the premier advisor to TAT. That’s the first split infinitive I’ve used in years, but Matt deserves it!

As a heralding of spring I want to share this beautiful African lily, the rare yellow clivia, which my son, Tom, brought me a few weeks ago when he moved to Langley. And there is another orange one just getting ready to bloom. Doesn’t it make you want to dance? P1070339 On the first day of March, Jon Pollack and I celebrated the beginning of the hiking season with a day trip to Park Forest near Eatonville. We were accompanied by old friends, the prolific historical writer, Dennis Larsen, and his wife, Pat Ziobron. Mt. Rainier was overpowering, with views all along the trail. I was unable to get a photo on the winding road back, but I did catch some beautiful shots at the marina in Tacoma near where Jon lives.


The closer you get the more beautiful it is!

P1070291 Life continues in Langley, with enthusiastic Art Walks, excellent theater–a superb production of Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz–and an original musical, Pasture-ized, by Whidbey’s own Ken Merrell and Eileen Soskin, which could well start, immediately, Off-Broadway. And, of course, volunteering in the garden is in full sway as the fresh produce has returned in abundance, thanks to the tireless work of the garden experts  and their apprentices. I haven’t forgotten about Yolmo/Helambu. Just had a little detour, but it’s on its way….


…and all’s right with the world! I must say that I miss the snow from “back home,” but there are some who say it’s overkill, and admonish me to be happy with my 55 degrees and enjoy the early spring! It’s hard for me to believe that the flowering trees are already pink and white and the rhododendrons are out. But what amazes me even more is the grass, which has been green all winter, and is now being cut on a regular basis.

I walked along the beach last evening…two blocks down the hill from me…and here’s what my iPhone saw. It’s not a fancy camera so you’ll have to imagine the soft pinks and coral shadings on the mountains.

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…despite the grueling 20 hours from Delhi to Amsterdam to Seattle, sitting bolt upright while watching movies I’d never think of paying to see, in the hopes that they’d put me to sleep. Dream on, Meg, which was the only dreaming I did! I survived the interminable security checks and tortoise-like behavior of unsmiling customs and passport personnel, the incredibly awful food (Weight Watchers take note…there may be a solution you’re missing), and the even worse jetlag upon returning that I can’t seem to lick no matter how many times I travel to Asia.

I will say that Cary and I lucked out on the way over just before Thanksgiving, when an almost empty Delta flight on the Amsterdam leg allowed us each a row of seats in which to lie down. And on the way back we perfected a procedure to get priority seating and circumvent the mile-long waiting lines at the terminal. “Just use your old lady routine, Mom. Puleeze? And try to look a little frail.” It worked, but I still feel guilty. It’s Cary, however, who will suffer the demerits in the next life, for it was her idea. I’ve been told, not always subtly, that I’m verbose at times, and admonished to start at the end of the story…to keep the reader from lapsing into a coma.

I have taken this advice to heart so will treat you to the final leg of my recent trip, starting at the  Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath near Kathmandu and into the glorious Yolmo/Helambu region of Nepal. This was the trip I missed last year when I injured my knee in Bhutan. Poinsettias abound at the Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath, just in time for Christmas!

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Before I start I must say a word about our flight on Jet Airways from Delhi to Kathmandu. After all the terrible things I’ve said about the food on our other flights, this was a radical change. The minute the door closed several well-groomed stewards raced down the aisle waving Carlsberg beer (in India?). Then followed a full meal, good curd, and real chocolate pudding. All in the space of an hour. As we left the plane Cary said to the smiling stewards, “After watching you sprint for the last hour, I wonder if you’ve ever thought of trying out for the Olympics.”

You’d think after twenty-eight years of bumping around Nepal in buses and cars of questionable quality I’d say “Enough already,” but hope springs eternal and every year a few more roads are surfaced that were, previously, back-breakers. And every year I get older and become more adept at holding myself up off the seats just high enough that I don’t bang my head on the roof. I also was lucky to drive in a larger car that had handholds above the doors, and not a bus.

I can’t believe that after I touted the warm sunny weather in Nepal it should start to rain on the first day of our departure for the tiny village of Tarkye Gang, where we were to begin trekking. There was even fresh snow on Mustang and the surrounding mountains. But after all, you say, it IS December in Nepal…and you would be right.

Our driver from Boudha to Tarkye Gang, a matter of only 77 miles that took over five hours, was a radiantly cheerful fellow who didn’t seem to mind the road conditions. He drove a Nissan four-wheel drive, where in order to get all four wheels engaged, he had to stop the car, get out and lock the front wheels. This occurred several times when we got stuck in the mud on steep inclines. What a hassle! But nothing seemed to faze him!

P1060530 P1060492 He informed us that he was taking the lower road through Bhaktapur and Dhulikhel, because the roads higher up (which we took on our return trip) were too perilous in this weather. Worse than these? How is that possible?

Our first stop was for breakfast at an open-air restaurant filled with men. Everyone had long skinny loaves of bread that looked like pastry, and, as local custom would have it, they were dipping them into their tea. I asked Ram if I could have some eggs and coffee and while he was scrambling to find some, we decided to try our hand at the bread dipping…carefully. Soon we were encircled by flakes of pastry, which filled the table and spilled onto the floor. What were we doing wrong? Nobody else was making such a mess. Fortunately, birds came to our rescue and cleaned it all up. We were perched on the edge of a cliff and by the number of cartons of empty whiskey bottles piled high outside, I’d say this was a very popular hangout.

The weather worsened as we drove higher, but we could see the outline of the mountains and the neatly terraced fields through the mist.

P1060515 P1060487 P1060526 P1060518 When we took time out for lunch at Thimbu we noticed a bus struggling around the corner below us. How it had navigated over the narrow track and avoided going over the cliff amazed me. The driver had to stop in town and turn around. That’s as far as he dared go. When the locals had boarded, the bus slowly made its way back down the slippery mud and rocks that served as a road. We watched incredulously.

P1060497 P1060493 Fun on the way down….

P1060762 Pictures cannot do justice to these roads! You have to feel them, experience them. Several times I was sure we’d have to get out and push. Fortunately, the rocks helped stop the spinning wheels whenever we’d slide backward. It would be several days before any bus could pass.

This was especially poignant when we discovered that an Indian wedding was in full swing when we arrived at our proposed guesthouse in the small village of Tarkye Gang. All the guests would have to negotiate that road by foot down to Thimbu the next day. But nobody seemed to care. They were eating and drinking, toasting and dancing, and immediately invited us to share in the festivities, which continued until 3 AM. We were touched by their hospitality, but declined. The celebration would have to continue without us.

Our new guesthouse was a treasure: a large dining/kitchen area, an open stairway that led to several bedrooms, and a Western toilet (hurray!). There is no central heating in any of the places we stayed, so it was great to sit near the fire in the  dining area and get out of the incessant rain.

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The next morning we awoke to clear skies, but were admonished not to climb Ama Yangri, our goal for the day, because of heavy snow and ice. It is a sacred mountain and considered the female protector of this area, dedicated to contemplation and reflection.  Cary had climbed it last year and wanted to share the experience with me. This was a big disappointment for both of us. The swings in the weather were such that by midday the sun was so hot that we had to climb in shirt sleeves. It took us seven hours to reach our destiny, a picturesque farming community high in the mountains.

Starting out in the morning

Starting out in the morning


A preview of tomorrow's climb!

A preview of tomorrow’s climb!

Yet to come…photos of our climb and our day in Upper Melamchi. Stay tuned….


Over the years I’ve written about individuals who spend their life creating and promoting projects that fly in the face of the nay-sayers who find little hope of repairing this shattered and divided world.

Here are two such individuals who have come to my attention recently. I urge you to read their stories. They’re a great antidote for pessimism.

I just saw the documentary, “Dancing in Jaffa,” Hilla Medalia’s charming movie telling the story of Paul Dulaine, head of the non-profit organization, Dancing Classrooms. Having been born in Jaffa to an Irish father and Palestinian mother (the family left in 1948), he returned to Israel in later life to try to instill mutual respect in 9 to 11-year-old Jewish and Palestinian Israelis through a 10-week course in the movements and courtesies of Latin dance.

Dulaine, four-time champion of international ballroom dancing competitions, was convinced that dance could bridge the divide between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, transforming long-held prejudices and turning wallflowers into confident teens in the process. In the movie, he instructs at five schools, some mainly Palestinian, some mainly Jewish, and one a blend of both. Though he admits to a particular concern for his Palestinian students (“I would like to give them a chance to better themselves”), he is equally firm and considerate with all his charges.

See the movie and you’ll be amazed and heartened by the outcome.


Another individual, Harvey Price, (, assistant professor of music at the University of Delaware, was called to my attention by a fellow-percussionist and good friend, Phyllis Bitow.

His program is The Peace Drum Project, making peace in Galilee.

In 2007, Harvey Price formed three youth steel drum bands in Israel of primarily Jewish Ethiopian youths.  All three bands, under that Israeli teacher, are still going strong!

In 2011, the clergy of Delaware Churches for Middle East Peace and four Northern Delaware rabbis, Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist met to exchange views regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  As a result, they began to explore how they might collaborate locally to promote peace in their shared Holy Land.

An interfaith committee was formed to involve youth in peacemaking. Mr. Price’s success with youth steel drum bands in Israel was brought to the committee’s attention and wholeheartedly embraced as a way to build trust and nurture peace among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim youth through teamwork and music.

The project was launched in October 2013 when Harvey Price and fellow enthusiasts traveled to Israel and delivered the first set of drums. Read about the various ways organizations and students have raised money for this project and listen to their playing!

As I wrote in my posting about Pete Seeger, he was another steel drum enthusiast, who believed that music was the way to bring people together and promote peace, and urged my husband, Glen Peterson, then President of Oscar Schmidt, Int’l, to make steel drums along with our autoharps and Orff percussion instruments. These drums were all the rage at that time in music education. It seems that they are now as popular as ever!

Langley has been beautiful this spring. Sunny and cool. All kinds of art exhibits are in progress as well as some wonderful plays. Two outstanding productions were: Good People by Davis Lindsay Abaire, a play I missed at the Manhattan Theater Club in NYC, and Our Town by Thornton Wilder, a production I last saw on Broadway with Spaulding Gray. I have not seen a better production and plan to see it a second time before it closes. I often usher at WICA (Whidbey Island Center for the Arts), where most dramatic productions take place. We have another smaller theater, The Outcast Theater, which is where Good People was mounted.

It’s amazing the talent that the South Island boasts. For a theater addict, this is, indeed, heartwarming.

My next blog will tell about my birthday party, but I’m still gathering photos, and getting used to being so old.





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And they greet me from the back porch as well….




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