Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Visit to Donna Brown’s – Door County

April 21, 2012

In August, 1994, we visited the art studio of Donna Brown in Door County, Wisconsin. I wrote a brief reflection at that time on her working environment and the paintings hanging on the walls. We purchased one painting which hangs in our guest bathroom.

The cats looked like little rags
On the rocker near
Stretched out sound asleep
Yellow lab taking up
Rug by the work table
She sat there so peacefully
String trio competing
Rattling windows, bent hollyhocks
He sat painting – motionless
Hanging among the flowers
Golden hair peeking earlier
Under garage door saying, “Hi.”
Eating berries, cat held
Head by face full length
Down body hanging
Later “helping mom” at Hardi

© 1994 Thomas W. Cummins

Perhaps it was the ambulance

January 1, 2011

Yesterday morning I took my last run of 2010. Severe weather was threatening the area. I stayed close-by.

Everything was going fine until I began my second mile. With no warning at all, my left leg collapsed, and I nearly went down. Has this happened before? Yes. But very rarely.

Actually, though, it has happened often enough so that I don’t rely on my legs to serve me well  in precarious situations. Climbing the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza, for example.

The pyramid actually looks quite accessible from the ground. Lots of people were going up and down. After watching for a while and working up some nerve, I approached the first step.

Facing me were many, many steps with no intermediate landings. A complete absence of anything to hang onto. OSHA would not have been happy. I decided I’d just start climbing and not look down until I had reached the top.

The climb was very easy. A steady, deliberate pace, and I was done. Oh, what a view from up there. It was worth the climb. Ruins in the foreground, a blue sky with puffy clouds, Yucatan jungle stretching to the horizon.

After looking around, enjoying the view, watching people huff and puff their way to the top, it was time to go back down. How was I going to do this? What looked quite benevolent from below, suddenly presented itself as a nearly vertical drop to the ground when viewed from above.

Oh, boy! This was going to be tricky. One stumble and I would bounce down the stone steps all the way to the bottom. Climbers coming up in my path of descent would join me going down,  felled like so many bowling pins. The odds of surviving such a fall, either alive or able-bodied, were slim.

With my “trick knee,” for lack of a better description, I decided to sit down and proceed one step at a time. I was even worried about falling as I attempted to sit on the top-most step in preparation for my downward journey. Perhaps it was the ambulance sitting off to the side in the shade of a tree that focused my attention.

Well, anyhow, I made it back down. We have heard that climbers are no longer allowed on the pyramid. Unverified at this point, but understandable.

All of this came to mind as I finished my last run of 2010.

I’m simply and forever grateful

March 24, 2009

Thirty-one years ago today I put on a pair of new running shoes and went out to see what jogging was all about. Getting some exercise transformed my life and has served me well though all sorts of trials. The old expression about not adding years to your life, but adding life to your years, is certainly true.

My mileage is modest and only for fitness. But I have had the privilege of  running in Muscatine, Iowa, … Cincinnati, Ohio, … Eldorado, Arkansas … St. Louis, Missouri … Washington, D.C. … Mystic, Connecticut … Springfield, Massachusetts … Dayton, Ohio … Palm Beach, Florida … Houston, Texas … Memphis, Tennessee … Minneapolis, Minnesota … Tokyo, Japan … Seoul, Korea … Kenting, Taiwan … Scotland … England … and a host of other places on odd trips here and there. In Tokyo, my daily run was around the Imperial Palace grounds. And believe me I wasn’t the only one out on the roads in either Tokyo or Seoul. Sunrise exercises were the norm.

Any road races were purely social but included 3 half-marathons, several 15k, 10k, and 5k events. I have shared the road with Paul Cummings, Mary Decker Slaney, Bill Rodgers, Julie Isphording. My favorite race with a 10 miler north of Alton, Illinois along the Mississippi River. It was flat, foggy, misty, about 39 degrees, and I was in a singlet and shorts. Perfect for a run of such length.

I seldom run if it is over 80. The coldest temp was -12. There has been one fall — on snow-covered ice in Cincinnati. Seven years were spent running 3.5 miles several days per week with a blind man tethered to me by a small coiled cord. He also was able to water ski and downhill ski, so his physical sense was well developed due to being sighted until his early 20s.

But all in all, and after 31 years, I’m simply and forever grateful for the capability and opportunity to get out on the road, get the pulse up, breathe deeply, and listen to the birds.

I’m just a guest anywhere on this planet

June 22, 2008

Time to reflect in an environment constantly reminding me of its dominance, its unpredictability, and that I am really just a guest in nature, is a gift. Actually, I’m just a guest anywhere on this planet, but in modern cities there is an illusion of being insulated from the overwhelming power of natural forces.

Being on the shore of a large lake in the north woods brings an exposure to nature from several aspects. Power is easily interrupted on a day of severe winds when power lines run for miles through the woods. No electricity quickly means no water for a waterwell-supported dwelling. Temperature in the main cabin begins to drop as the electric baseboard heaters cool.

We had never seen a steady 30-40 mph wind straight off of the lake before. Waves were crashing over the entire dock. Some nearby docks were dismantled and floated by in sections. A large panel of wood decking would not be good jammed up against any object, and we cheered each panel as it went under and between the legs and structure of our dock.

Everything gathered further down the shore, and a couple of days later, on a calm and sunny day, a young man was seen towing the dock pieces back to where they came from.

The power was off from 2:30 in the afternoon until midnight. Going to bed early under four blankets was a good idea. I awoke briefly after midnight  to see a table lamp on. We called the power company the next morning to voice our appreciation for the line crews. The rest of the morning was spent picking up twigs, limbs and leaves from the driveway and the yard. Leaf fragments were plastered everywhere and needed to be brushed away before they were glued to whatever surface they landed on.

A whole day with no wind was a relief and very, very restful.

Can’t complain

February 27, 2008

Turned around halfway to the prison this morning. All clear here, but snow and slick roads 45 minutes south. My ABS system was squawking when I tried to stop for a driver turning into a filling station. That was enough for me with many miles of hilly, winding, two-lane road ahead. Driving conditions have caused me to come home on only two occasions in seven years. Can’t complain in the least.

But I do miss seeing the men, and there is no small amount of prep time to get mentally ready for my visits to the prison. I’m also aware, however, of the name frequently given to the highway I travel each Wednesday: Blood Alley. Next Wednesday will be better.

Or is it already too late?

January 15, 2008

When my aunt and godmother reached the 100 year mark in late November, there was no way we could miss the party in San Francisco. Weather was perfect! Everyone behaved! Hurt feelings were none or few.

What a milestone, indeed. It makes me hope for good health if I reach those lofty numbers. My paternal grandmother reached 98, maternal grandmother – 96, my two surviving aunts (one on each side) are 90 and 100. The genes are there … now if my mind stays intact. Or is it already too late?

Both of my aunts are on the west coast. A quick drive up to Fort Bragg gave us the opportunity to see the younger aunt too. Our stay in nearby Mendocino was delightful. B&Bs aren’t a normal part of our travel scheme, but this time we hit the jackpot. The Headlands Inn was a treat of treats. Each morning breakfast was brought to our room. Each evening our crackling fire was filling the small upper room with flickering and restful warmth.

Breakfast the last morning

Breakfast the last morning 

 We stopped in to visit … for one last time? … the new 100 year-old on the way to the airport motel to rest for the next day’s flight out. As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, we turned on our Magellan Crossover GPS and “Maggie” guided us through the maze of hills and valleys. Before we ever left home for California, everyone’s address was entered into the navigator. Really paid off and minimized frustration to a new low compared to  our previous strange city adventures.