Meg Noble Peterson

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

Category: Whidbey Island Page 1 of 2

CARDINAL RULE #1: NEVER LET YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE EXPIRE!

If you’ve wondered whether I dropped off the face of the earth for three months, you would be right on. It all started when I hopped on a plane for Newark Airport on June 24, excited about the upcoming ten days of intense activity I had planned in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, starting with a visit to my youngest grandson, Adam, and his fiancé, Allie, and followed by a whirlwind trip to the Mt. Laurel Autoharp Gathering, a fancy wedding in the Catskills, and ending in New England for a visit with the Wyman Kelly family. Except that I stepped into the car rental agency in Hoboken on June 25 only to be told that my Washington State license had expired. How is a Jersey girl supposed to know that nobody gets reminders in the great Northwest?

Friends are wonderful and the relay began. Phyllis Bitow drove me to NY City and James Wilson took me in for a night in the Village before putting me on a train for Harrisburg, PA. I got to see that historic town, which was like stepping onto a set from the American Revolution. Then I was picked up by Carole and Fisk Outwater, who hosted me in their RV for three days of the Mt. Laurel Autoharp Gathering , where I met old autoharp buddies, thrived on good music, and got very little sleep. On Saturday I was returned to Harrisburg and picked up by Phyllis, who took me to Bethlehem, PA, where we enjoyed a new production of Cirque du Soleil with friends. Ay, there’s the rub. In my somnambulistic condition late at night, I was running in a parking garage and tripped, flying headfirst into the fender of a parked car. I was flipped over onto the pavement, smashing my back and right hand. Never thinking to go to an emergency room at such an hour, I soldiered forth to the glorious wedding of Jen Vitello and Bob D’Agostino, where I celebrated their nuptials with close friends and relatives and two margaritas, which numbed my pain enough to make dancing exciting…until the next day.

Fast forward. Judy Wyman picked me up from the wedding and took me to West Hartford, Connecticut, where I was X-rayed for everything but my back. Go figure. Seeing the Wyman Kelly family was comforting and they graciously made it possible for me to visit my sister, Anne Magill, and her husband, Frank, in Peterborough, NH.

Upon my return, various medical tests ensued, including an MRI of the thoracic region of my back. Result: two compression fractures and three broken ribs. And, of course, the broken hand, which had already been diagnosed. Enough said. It was a disappointing summer. No swimming. No hiking. Drastically curtailed activity. And I, an avid critic of any kind of medication (I don’t do well with stimulants of any kind…one glass of wine and I’m dancing on the table, and one oxycodone…well, Katie, bar the door!) was given a regimen of Tylenol, ibuprofen, and oxycodone (at bedtime..for sweet dreams?).

I was supposed to time my pain meds to overlap during the day. That lasted less than a week, until I decided to tough it out and see how much pain I could endure before signing up for assisted suicide (one of the perks of living in Washington State). Is it better to suffer and be sure not to overdo, or mask the pain and overdo? Heady decisions, to be sure, especially when friends and relatives are ever ready with advice that scares the hell out of me.

In the back of my muddled mind was the thought that if I hadn’t gone East and if I hadn’t let my license expire, I would be scaling the Himalayas and swimming across Lake Winnipesaukee in a heartbeat. But now I was sure that my life as I knew it was over and I was not only a nobody, but a has-been in the bargain. Ever been there? Of course you have. And it never occurred to me that I could have been sailing down the Pennsylvania turnpike in my rental car and been broadsided in the middle of the night by an 18-wheeler. So you see, there is really no answer to why these crazy things happen to us, but, in my case, I am grateful that I didn’t break my neck or paralyze myself, or experience any number of much worse scenarios.

Adding to my feeling of panic and helplessness immediately after returning to Whidbey Island on July 6th, I was faced with moving to the Upper Langley affordable co-housing community by September 1st. The plans had been made before I left for the East Coast. Again, thank heaven for friends, who helped with packing, unpacking, and completing the move. And kudos to son Tom, who built a lovely two-story home—his first experience as a builder, and what a success it was—on the edge of a fir and cedar forest in this welcoming community, where I will live out my days as a modern woodswoman. Daughter Cary is just down the path, so I have absolutely no chance to misbehave.

There will be photos in the future as I settle in. Tom, whose first love is horticulture, has provided a glorious environment of plants, trees, and flowers surrounding the house. His expertise never ceases to amaze me. And I have only a short walk to town, past my old apartment and right into the middle of picturesque Langley. Things are looking up! And I promise you that I will be back in the saddle before long, and grateful for a relatively rapid recovery.

View of the Cascades from Langley

Sunset at Maxwelton Beach

I INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM FOR A BRIEF ANNOUNCEMENT…

…in the midst of my extensive report from Nepal and South Korea, so I can share with you my recent trip to New York City and New Jersey. For those of you who may think there is no connection, or that trekking in the Himalayas cannot be compared to life in midtown Manhattan, you have obviously never been to Times Square at rush hour!

Negotiating the ticketing process from Christopher Street in the Village (my subway stop) through the noisy labyrinth of the underground that belches forth its over-abundance of humanity into the many-faceted subterranean canyon with its myriad stairs leading to Midtown, is every bit as strenuous as negotiating a rocky terrain at 12,000 ft. Trust me! The noise is at peak decibel, the possible pathways to subways are legion, every musical instrument known to mankind is playing, alone or in ensemble, and bodies are propelling themselves at record speeds, defying normal gravity. I pasted myself against a wall to watch the scene unfold. Could I have forgotten such insanity? Are there more people or am I just getting old (heaven forbid!). Dare I try for a video or will my arm be swept off? Lest you think I am exaggerating, try it, yourself. There ain’t nothing like it on the face of the earth…not even in India. There are places I’ve been where more people fill the streets, or crazies wander haphazardly looking for shelter, or there is more variety in architecture, or more color, or a gorgeous view. But in this one microcosm, you have it all at the same time. There is an excess of everything. I love it…the intensity and the energy…and I can find it terrifying.

But I digress. My two weeks in New York and New Jersey were full of joyous moments with old friends, a perusal of inimitable restaurants (yes, affordable), and an update on some of the gems that Broadway has to offer. This is no surprise to anyone who has followed my theater addiction over the years. There were times (when I lived in NJ) that I was able to taste dozens of shows a year, whether opera, symphony, musical theater, or plays, and all for reasonable prices (I belonged to a lot of cheap ticket venues, so $3.50 was a standard cost for shows in preview). Ah, but those days are gone forever! Today, even TDF barely dips below $32 for Off Broadway productions. That said, I leapt right in with a performance of a new play, Gary, the sequel to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, starring Nathan Lane. This was in celebration of my friend, James Wilson’s, birthday. Here he is in front of his colorful Village apartment on 10th Street, where he generously invited me to stay for a week.

 

James’s apartment was not far from the historic Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, site of the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement.

 

 

During the week, when not at the theater, I roamed the streets of the Village, eating at various restaurants and meeting a plethora of people from all corners of the world. I returned to a favorite noodle restaurant several times and became acquainted with a charming Hungarian waiter, a Mexican busboy, and an Indian bartender, all recent immigrants. Hey, who needs to travel abroad when they have New York City?

 

The noodle shop is located near the clock tower and library, a rather peaceful area of small shops and eateries.

Here are several views of the neighborhood, including my favorite Deli.

Click on photos to see slideshow.

On Sunday afternoon, my old friend, Barry Hamilton, the General Manager of the New York City Children’s Theater, treated me to their new production, This is Sadie. I’ve never seen more energetic dancing! It was a charming show. I wish I had had such theater available at my fingertips when my children were growing up.

I think the most outstanding play of the year for me was The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth’s intricate drama of a family in Ireland during the IRA conflict. Brian D’Arcy James led an amazing cast of twenty-two superb actors, keeping me on tenterhooks for three fast-paced hours.

After a visit with my younger sister, Cary, in Harrison, NY, I began a week of intense theater of all kinds starting with the insightful one-woman show by Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me, then adding two musicals, Merrily We Roll Along, vintage Sondheim, which I enjoyed with Paul Sharar, my long-time theater buddy, and The Prom, an hilarous new musical shared with Barry Hamilton, and Cheryl Galante, whose house I will enjoy for the next week when in Maplewood.

Cheryl, Barry, MP

A visit would not be complete without a rendezvous with Phyllis Bitow and Terri Pedone for dinner and a show at the Irish Repertory Theater. This year it was Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock. At this point my understanding of Irish dialect is nearing perfection! Our usual pick is the Metropolitan Opera, but no tickets were available at the last minute.

Together with Terri and Phyllis

 

In between shows I was able to renew ties with old friends Gary Shippy, Grace Polk, Luba Schnable & Skip Ungar, and Madison Scott, whom I had met last summer when she was acting in the Whidbey Island Shakespeare Festival. What fun to meet at a coffee shop in the Village.

 

The night before I left to visit my grandson, Adam Bixler, and his girlfriend, Allie Francis, in North Bergen, NJ, a close friend of James’s, Jim Guedry, treated me to a farewell party at his inviting home on Charles Street in the area of the Village known for its picturesque brownstone buildings. It was like walking into an art museum, only with more mirrors and better food! ’Twas a lovely evening of good conversation and fellowship with a stimulating group of friends.

I spent the weekend with Adam and Allie in their new apartment across the river from NYC.

The climax came on Sunday evening when we went to the ever-popular musical, Jersey Boys, in Manhattan. Ben Vitello, another close friend, shared the evening with us and returned me to Maplewood, where I stayed until take-off on Wednesday morning.

Ben, Allie & Adam after the show

Spring was just getting started in the old home town. The magnolias were magnificent at Martha’s former homestead but the buds were just peeking through the branches at Cheryl and Steve’s house.

Cheryl’s home was, as always, warm and inviting. And, despite all the companies and projects she manages, she always takes time to serve me a splendid breakfast!

You may remember that for the last two years my sojourn “back home” was met with a violent snowstorm. So this year I pushed the trip back a week and missed the white stuff, but managed to hit rain and fierce winds in Manhattan…enough to turn two strong umbrellas inside out while walking in Midtown. Them’s fierce winds, my friend. Make no mistake about it. Maybe next year I’ll go in May. But with climate change you never know.

I spent my last afternoon enjoying a festive reunion with two of my symphony buddies, Mike Schneider, his wife, Tami, and Andy Nagy. For years Mike, Andy, and I held up the second violin section of the Plainfield Symphony. Hah hah. Now they are on their own! We met at an Israeli pizzeria, Pita on Essex, in Millburn. Go figure…But it was terrific!

 

I was overjoyed when another friend, Jackie Herships, whom I met when she was running the organization, Professionals in Media, offered to take me to the airport. She, like Cheryl, go above and beyond the call of duty!

 

Returning to Whidbey Island was like entering Nepal in November, although spring was still ahead of the East Coast. It’s all that rain we entertain every winter. The forsythia had come and gone, but flowering trees, rhododendron, and daffodils abounded. Thank heaven for the return of the sun! But isn’t it about time to move above 60?

I took long walks by the Sound and meandered on the beach at low tide. It was heavenly….

For a week, daughter, Cary, has entertained a cycling friend of hers from Holland, Ian Borwell, whom she met in 1982 through their common interest in the WindCheetah, a human-powered vehicle made in Norwich, England. Cary was living in Holland at the time. This resulted in her buying a WindCheetah and traversing the United States for 10,000 miles in 1985. Another bicycling friend and artist, Stephen McMillan, joined them before returning home to Bellingham.

But the highlight of my return was a sunset dinner at Maxwelton Beach with my friends Don and Anne Zontine, Jerene, and Zangmo, welcoming me back. Naturally, we came equipped with down jackets and heavy blankets!

 

 

I’M KEEPING HUMMINGBIRDS ALIVE IN THE SNOW!


A little shout of glee from this North Easterner who has missed old man winter for five years. I don’t know whether it’s climate change or the desire to get in step with the crazy weather visiting the Midwest this month, but for the past week Langley has been all but paralyzed by several snowstorms in a row. And it’s still coming down! Schools had two full snow days and two half days last week, and even our trusty movie theater closed its doors.

Like many of my friends, my neighbor was tired of Whidbey’s cold, wet winters and took a few days in Hawaii to recover. Good timing! In her absence I have been putting out her hummingbird feeders during the day and bringing them in at night so the sugar water doesn’t freeze. Can you believe that the hummingbirds are here in this snow? Check out the video that I took of my new little friend.

I am carried back to my childhood in Syracuse, New York, where walking to school on the high drifts that lined the roads went on for weeks. And I loved it! Since snowplows do not abound in our community, I enjoyed the same feeling as I shuffled through six to eight inches of the fluffy stuff with nary a car nor person in sight. And guess what? It looks as if this coming week will be the same.

My dear friend, Anne Ferry-Brennan, and her friend take a daily swim in Puget Sound. Nothing can deter them!

Here are a few more shots of what I call our winter wonderland. Click on photos to enlarge.

My friend Heidi’s home at the Maxwelton Creek Cohousing- can you believe she was born in Switzerland?

 

GUESS WHAT? IT’S BACK TO NEPAL WE GO!

I’m sure this comes as no surprise that Cary and I are resuming our yearly sojourn to Nepal, adding a week in South Korea at the end of December. There we will visit Shawo, a Tibetan student we first met ten years ago at the TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village) school in Suja, India, and have been in touch with ever since. He is studying at Dongguk University in Gyeongju, and has planned an exciting few days to acquaint us with this country, its culture, and terrain.

Our time in Nepal is more unstructured than usual, by choice. We may visit Lumbini, where the Buddha was born, and we certainly will visit Dhulikhel and our old friend, B.P. Shresta. We have a ten-day trek in the Annapurna region, but it will be much shorter than the full circuit I took in 1999 when I met my friend, Jon Pollack. We decided not to go the usual route by Poon Hill, but head over the Khopra Ridge. Our guide tells us that it’s not so crowded and more laid back. We’ll fly to Pokhara, drive to Kimche and hike to Ghandruk. From there we go by way of Isharu, Bayeli, and Christibung up to the ridge. I have a new Sony camera, so I expect to dazzle you with my creations. That is, once I learn how to use it! Cameras are better and better these days, as well as more and more complicated. But I’m told it’s good for the brain, so I soldier on!

As we reach the end of the growing season and wrap up the farm activities until early spring, I’d like to share with you the end of the year festivities at the fabulous school farm that Cary started here on the island. For me the ending is always a bit poignant, since I will have to forego fresh produce for these upcoming winter months. But, selfishness aside, the season went out with a bang—the school Harvest Feast. Friends and family enjoyed a sumptuous repast of kale salad, mashed potatoes, carrot sticks, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, all made by the students from veggies grown at the farm. You can read the school farm blog HERE, with new end-of-the-year and Harvest Feast posts coming soon.

And now it’s off to Asia, wishing you a wonderful holiday season and glorious New Year.

MY FINAL HOURS….

I stood up from my desk and, suddenly, the room started to rotate. I made my way into the living room, bouncing unceremoniously against the walls, clutching furniture along the way, and collapsing, heavily, into my reclining chair. For half-an-hour I prayed to the gods that be to clear my mind. I promised to stay off my computer and eschew any electronic devices in the future. I forgave all those who had transgressed against me during my lifetime, and asked, only, that my precious travel journals be spared the recycling bin. Then I called my daughter.

“Cary, I feel very, very strange. I think you’d better come down.” I tried not to slur my words.

Cary arrived. “What have you eaten today? How much water have you had?“

“Not much. A friend came over and he shared a mo mo and half a mango.”

“That’s not enough. Here is some water. Did your friend feed you something else?”

“No.”

“What have I told you about eating? You’re obviously hypoglycemic.” She started searching in the refrigerator for high calorie foods. Out came orange juice, figs, bread, chili….

I stood up to protest, whereupon my legs and entire body started to tingle and shake. I looked out the window. “OMIGOD, the mountains are all golden and shimmery. When I close my eyes the images turn purple. It’s lovely….Oh, dear, I feel sick to my stomach.”

Cary took out the frying pan. “You need to eat. You have all the symptoms of someone whose blood sugar is low.” She had been hovering over her iPhone, searching for relevant medical information.

So I ate and things got worse. “I’m so tired. I think I’m dying. I’m having a stroke, just like my father. The world comes and goes. You either like it or you don’t like it. I feel so unattached. It’s lovely and it isn’t lovely. Am I making sense? I think dying is very relaxing.” I was slurring my words and I felt extremely stupid, which made me start to laugh and move my arms as if I were trying to swim to the other side, wherever the other side was.

“Mom, why don’t we lie down together and rest?”

“No, no. If I lie down I’ll die. I know it.”

Cary called a friend who is a doctor, and she said to call 911. Then she asked me to write my name. I couldn’t get to the end of it before I slumped into my daughter’s arms and could no longer speak.

911 asked, “Is she breathing?” “Yes, she’s breathing.”

This is it, I thought. I knew I was dying, and I felt so young, so not ready….

The next thing I remember is my doctor, bless her, standing over me and asking me questions. I think I was laughing at my silly answers, and begging her not to think I was crazy. Then came what seemed like ten young men hovering over me asking me more questions as if I were in kindergarten. “Don’t talk to me like that,” I remember saying. My blood pressure was 70 over 40, causing alarm. I didn’t care about anything or anyone. I just wanted to pee, but didn’t want the whole army to come into the bathroom with me. I was totally humiliated and felt like a non-person. How much worse can it get than that?

I couldn’t open my eyes, but remember being bumped down the stairs, hoisted onto a stretcher, and moved into a waiting ambulance. More wires and tubes than I thought existed were plugged into me and wrapped around my arms and legs and under my breasts. EKG, IV, all to make sure I’d make it to the hospital.

Blood work, another EKG and one CAT scan later a catheter (that’s the worst!) provided a urine sample, which answered the question hovering over me. How could I be so loopy and incoherent, when nothing seemed to be wrong?

At 11 pm, the attending physician strode in, slightly stern. “All your tests are good, and your urine is clear, but….


Mrs. Peterson, tell me about your marijuana usage.”

“I hate the stuff. I lose my memory, I get horny, I never touch it.”

Cary looks at him, mouth agape. He continued, “Your urine tests positive for marijuana.”

I was gobsmacked.

Cary now turns and looks at me and, suddenly, the light goes on. Oh, dear, now I’m in trouble. This afternoon, after my friend left, I was so hungry that I started rummaging in the freezer, hoping to find something to assuage my hunger. I came upon a slice of what I remembered as hazelnut bread, given to me by my neighbor a couple of years ago, when I was suffering from jet lag and couldn’t sleep.

“Try this, Meg…but only a tiny bit at a time. It’s an edible. That is, cannabis baked in my fabulous hazelnut bread.”

“I won’t take it. I had a terrible experience with three small cupcakes fifteen years ago.”

“Take it. You never know. But be sure to label it M for medical.”

He was so generous, I thought, and maybe one of my friends might need it some day. So I put it in the freezer, forgetting to label it.

So, if any of you, my dear readers, wish to experience the prelude to death, which I do NOT recommend, I have a friend who can help you. But please take just one tiny piece. Don’t be like me…a starving fool who ate the whole thing!

They discharged me from the hospital with a diagnosis of marijuana intoxication, and the nurse dutifully read me the handout on substance abuse and where to get help. I begged them to add “accidental” to the diagnosis. Behind the professionalism, their eyes sparkled and I do feel they believed me and were all delighted at a good outcome and a good story. Oldest yet to succumb to edibles!

I share this story with you, not because I’m proud of my ill-advised behavior or because most people have found it rather hilarious (so much for sympathetic friends), but because now that marijuana has been legalized in so many states, we all need to be aware of the ease with which anyone can overdose on edibles. You usually don’t have any effects for at least an hour, and I have had friends who, because they felt nothing at first, ate more and more, and had very disturbing experiences. It is no laughing matter. We need to be fully aware of the impact of this substance on us, individually. Can you imagine what could have happened had I been behind the wheel of a car when “my trip” kicked in, rather than bouncing from wall to wall in my living room?

So these weren’t to be my final hours after all. Dramatic they were, to be sure, but also rather freeing, once the fear had gone and acceptance replaced it. And the lesson learned is still, two weeks later, lingering in my body and my mind, having had a profound impact on my rather frantic OCD ADHD life. I’ve had many moments of soul-searching, something that usually follows such a crisis. And when I lighten up a bit I am reminded of that wonderful Sondheim ballad from Follies, sung so poignantly by Elaine Stritch, I’m Still Here. Yeah, and very glad to be!

A FAMILY SUMMER

Family can mean so many things and be expressed in so many ways. Happiness, struggle, warmth, disagreement, and unconditional love. It can be long lost friends who brave the ferry lines at Mukilteo to pay a visit and share the joys of a jaunt up Ebey’s Landing.  It can be relatives—aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, you name it—who touch base at the cottage or on a woodland hike to remind me that we are still family. And then there is the ever-changing and growing Whidbey Island family that moves throughout the myriad summer festivities and barbecues with the promise not to lose touch when the rain and cold of winter arrive. And this year I found a new family at our Island Shakespeare Festival, feeding my love of language and theater. I feasted on Twelfth Night, Sense and Sensibility, and Othello, over and over, again, starting in the warmth and late sun of June and ending in the chilly nights of September. These accomplished young actors became my family, and helped fill the void that has persisted since I left New York City. And is there anything better than open-air theater?

Twelfth Night cast members after the closing show of the Island Shakespeare Festival season

And then there was that one last look at beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee before the summer ended.

You knew I couldn’t resist mentioning my yearly sojourn to New Hampshire, even though I have inundated you over the years with my reminiscences of time at the family summer cottage. (See my blog post THIS OLD COTTAGE.)  This year I enjoyed the best weather of my lifetime—temperate, sunny, clear—with only one rainy day, which didn’t spoil swimming, but added a touch of mystery to an overcast lake.

You can imagine how special this was for a Northwest transplant who spent weeks this summer dealing with a blanket of smoke blowing in from the Canadian fires up north, the direct result of global warming. Some days it looked to me like Delhi or Beijing, and four weeks ago I drove my daughter, Martha, to Vancouver, B.C., because there were no planes, large or small, flying out of Seattle. Not even a small seaplane. She had arrived from Denver early in the morning and had twenty students waiting for her at a destination that looked almost impossible to reach. It was strange to speed north through forests of fir, which stretched high into the gray sky like misplaced ghosts. Fortunately, however, Martha caught a small plane flying to Campbell River, and connected with a water taxi to Cortes Island, where she taught a course, Move Without Pain, at the Hollyhock Lifetime Learning Center.

I think the best description of what is happening here on the entire West Coast appeared in an article written by my niece-in-law, Jessica Plumb of Port Townsend, for the Seattle Times.

Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire: My two youngest sons, Robert and Tom, joined me during my two weeks. But before Robert arrived, Tom and I spent a pleasant afternoon at the historic Castle in the Clouds, a 16-room mountaintop estate in Moultonborough, NH, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossippee Mountains. We walked through its woodland paths and enjoyed the falls, in an area very reminiscent of The Flume.

(Click on photo to start slide show)

Naturally, no summer is complete without at least one strenuous hike. This summer it was Moat Mountain in Conway. I had no climbing shoes or poles, but I survived. Good practice for the upcoming trip to Nepal this November!

When Rob arrived, he and Tom decided to break all records in a killer climb up Boott Spur trail on Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. I found this clip on YouTube that gives you some idea of the trail. When Rob was taking shots of the summit with his iPhone, it was blown out of his hand by a fierce wind! Fortunately he had used his new Sony a6000 for the photos of their climb.

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The day was long, but they arrived back at the cottage in time to grab a few artsy photos around the cottage and some stunning shots of the sunset. Rob is quite a photographic artist!

Ready for a swim

My photography tends to be more muted, but I love these shots of the sun going down behind Rattlesnake Island, taken before Rob arrived.

At the end of our stay, we were treated to a short visit from my niece, Rebecca Magill, her husband, Paul Benzaquin, and their daughter, Amaya, They had just returned from one month in Ethiopia and treated us to a slide show of their work and travels in the country of Amaya’s birth.

On the way home, I left my sons at the Manchester airport and headed for Peterborough to visit my older sister, Anne Magill, and her husband, Frank.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit my younger sister, Cary Santoro, in Harrison, NY. Will save that for my next visit East.

Then it was on to West Hartford, CT, to visit Judy Wyman-Kelly, a longtime honorary member of the Peterson family, her husband, John Kelly, and daughters Leah and Sarah. She had generously lent me a car for two weeks, and now gave me a great send-off from Bradley Field, the airport where I started my first overseas travel, leaving on a World War II DC-3 propeller plane for a 22-hour journey to Paris by way of Gander, Newfoundland…in 1949. Can you believe how long it took? I was part of a student group with the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), heading for three countries to help in rebuilding war-town Europe.

This is the second year that I haven’t hiked and camped in the Northwest with Jon Pollack. His death ended our nineteen-year exploration of the Olympics and the Cascades and has robbed me of one of my most treasured and simpatico companions. His buoyant spirit, humor, and love of nature filled my summers with delight, and it will take me a long time to recapture, if ever, the joy of exploration into the wild that I enjoyed with Jon.

I spent a lot of time roaming the beaches on Whidbey Island this summer, and especially enjoyed low tide on the Langley waterfront, when I can walk all the way to the marina.

The tide came in and it was dusk.

And then came the sunset over Puget Sound.

The following day I visited friends living high on the bluff off Sills Rd., and got another view of the Sound at sunset.

And so, until next year, I say goodbye to summer and welcome the autumn, with its own special beauty.

90…IT’S NOT ALL THAT BAD!

By popular request, for those of you who missed my gala party or might be freaked out to find that I’m still navigating this world at such an advanced age, I have been persuaded to share some of my thoughts on reaching ninety and becoming the prehistoric valentine in my neighborhood.

On paper it sucks. In reality nothing’s changed, except the constant chatter from friends and family, who cannot just introduce me as Meg Peterson, Cary’s mother, but have to add my age for effect. They love the oh’s and ah’s and “I hope I’m like you at that age. You are my role model” responses. I have threatened to wear a placard on my back with huge letters declaring, “YES, I AM 90!” to save the need for such an announcement.

And I can’t resist noting that the pat answer to every complaint, whether a mosquito bite or the forgetting of a name is, “You ARE older, you know.” “Yes, I KNOW, and so what? There ain’t nothin’ I can do about it…so please don’t keep reminding me!”

In all fairness, most of us have been guilty of such admonitions, including me, who, when in my fifties, used to be amazed at how agile my 70-year-old friends were. So my chickens are now coming home to roost. Lesson learned. I’m just grateful for my friends and my good health, and that’s the end of it.

If you’ve ever lived in the Northwest you know that the next three months are very, very special. All year, as we watch the rain and the fog, and try to find something good to say about it…romantic, mysterious, poetic…we wait, and we wait, and we wait. As a newcomer to the area I do more waiting than most, who are acclimated, and really do find rain romantic. Ah, but our waiting is finally rewarded with the most glorious temperate, sunny burst of heaven, combined with cool breezes over Puget Sound. Even a few setbacks at the beginning of June, which is humorously referred to as Junuary, cannot dampen spirits. Bliss has arrived, and the hiking, boating, climbing, biking, swimming, music-making, and street-dancing begin. Glutted with overflowing largesse, Islanders come out of their caves and into their gardens and all that waiting was worth it!

But I digress….

June 2-3 was a busy weekend. For most Whidbeyites it was the real beginning of summer. Even so, with many folks heading off-island, over one hundred friends, relatives, and well-wishers, including fifteen from the Midwest and East Coast, came to celebrate my birthday with music, dancing, gourmet food, and the zip line, until late into the night.

Pictures will speak better than I. Over 1,000 were given to me after the party, so you can imagine how difficult this has been for someone who is known to have trouble making choices. A good practice, however, as I joyfully, resignedly, and gratefully step into my tenth decade.

Many thanks go to Lee Compton, Tim Clark, and Jenny Vitello, my roving photographers.

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Added to the festivities was live music by the inimitable Chris Harshman, Troy Chapman, and company, with solos from Nancy Nolan, David Edwards, and a birthday poem from Judith Adams that brought down the house.

The potluck, with the theme of sampling food from around the world, was superb. The cake, made by Erinn Cameron-Edwards and her daughters, was over the top! Husband David Edwards did a yeoman’s job of carving, down to the last crumb.

One of the highlights was the spontaneous singing of Happy Birthday. It started out as a simple acapella rendition, and after the first singing, several strong voices, like David Edwards, began, again, and branched into amazing three-part harmony that blew me away. I will never forget it!

How blessed I am to have such a group of upbeat friends!

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Many thanks go to Lee Compton, Tim Clark, and Jenny Vitello, my roving photographers.

Just before dusk children and adults had a ball on the zipline. Check out these intrepid souls.

Pure delight

With night coming on it was time for a bonfire. The perfect way to end a perfect day.

The bonfire burned out that night, but, 90 or not, the fire still burns brightly in me!

NEW YEAR’S GREETINGS

I hope you are all taking some time to groove on the holidays, enjoy your family, and make plans for what I hope is a healthier, more thoughtful, compassionate, and peaceful year ahead.

I seldom put personal information or political opinions in my blog, but I’ve received so many wonderful year end reports from friends, who press me for basic information, that I’m sending them and you the sketchiest of news. This is a first for me. I’m not known for brevity.

My youngest son, Robert, is off to Shenzhen, China, on business, leaving his wife, Gwen, in Orlando, Florida, to hold down the fort for their golf entertainment enterprise, Glowgear. My daughter, Martha, has returned to her home in Denver, Colorado, after three months of teaching Essential Somatics in the U. K., Ireland, and Australia, to be on hand when her daughter, Cally, gives birth to a second son in January (what does that make me…a great grandmother, again? Can’t be!). I shall be joining the Denver wing of the family for Christmas while Cary and Tom are staying in Langley, with the school farm program and Tom’s house building at the Upper Langley affordable cohousing community going swimmingly. Grandson Adam and his girlfriend, Allie, are in New Jersey tearing up cyber space with various innovations. Grandson Thomas, a prolific writer of fantasy fiction, will greet me in Denver before he makes his way to Portland, Oregon, to embrace a new job and that soothing winter rain. Cary and I miss going to Nepal, but the holiday season brings a lot of wonderful connections with stateside family, friends, concerts and theater that we don’t find trekking in the Himalayas.

And to all of you…a wonderful Christmas and jolly holidays. And try not to behave yourselves….

(Stay tuned for more reports of my trip to Mongolia last summer!)

View of Puget Sound from Cascade Avenue in Langley, WA on a sunny December day.

HAIL TO THE SPRINGTIME WITH FLOWERS AND BIRTHDAYS

It’s a given that being a Gemini is a heavy cross to bear, but when the number hits eighty-nine you start to take stock big time. You receive a plethora of funny cards warning that “the warranty on your life has expired,” or “don’t worry, it’s only a number” or, “hell, you could be ninety, so stop complaining and consider the alternative.” At least by this time I am completely honest…I don’t subtract a year and I certainly don’t add one. It is what it is! And, believe me, I count my blessings, which are many.

We had a magnificent cake from CJ&Y Decadent Desserts, the women who bought JW Desserts. But Mr JW Desserts himself–John Auburn (now of Whidbey Island Bagel Factory fame)–came and gave me a birthday present of a ride on his motorcycle!

Time for a new lifestyle!

It was fun to be joined at the head table by such friends as Irene Christofferson (96!) and Loretta Wilson (a mere 86), along with little ones coming up on six-years-old. So enjoyed the evening with friends at Talking Circle and the hilarious birthday limericks. I couldn’t resist another ride on the zipline! You should try it some day….

Fun on the zipline!

I can’t get enough of all the flowering plants, trees and rhodies that bloom around the time of my birthday.

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Look at the beauty of Whidbey in June as seen from Meerkerk Gardens.

GLOBAL WARMING, CLIMATE CHANGE…CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL, IT’S HERE!

Before I get back to my adventure last December in Nepal, let me interrupt the story for an important symbolic cry from fellow citizens to call attention to this serious threat to our planet. I think it’s important, and part of our duty as citizens in this time of turmoil, to point out moments of effective citizen action and ways we can speak up for change.

Science is being discounted and industrial profits are riding the wave, while our new president seems bent on upending the Paris accords and eight years of struggle to prevent, or at least slow, the destruction of the planet. Forget people, forget wildlife, forget native habitat. Short-term profit is god.

After all that’s been written about the danger to us and future generations, starting way back with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, to scientists like Neil Degrasse Tyson, to Obama’s fight to lower greenhouse gases and find alternative energy sources, you’d think our politicians would have gotten the message. Seems not to be so, hard as that is to believe. As a result, and in an attempt to dramatize the danger, concerned citizens and scientists are marching, shouting, and taking action. Whidbey Island is no different.

Here in Langley we gathered an enthusiastic and dedicated crowd of people, who marched through town on April 29th, adding our numbers to millions of concerned Americans around the country. The message is loud and clear!

My favorite placard was this:

followed by the one I inadvertently walked off with, thinking it was up for grabs. The owner dashed after me and informed me otherwise.  My upcoming birthday and the message seemed both satirical and humorous.

Click on the photos for a slide show.

 

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