Tag Archives: travel

Sunday thoughts

in the courtyard of the Mutter Museum

in the courtyard of the Mutter Museum

It’s the quiet before the storm here, a few days alone before the family arrive for the holidays.  I am still not used to the rhythm of the holidays sans children.  I put the ornaments on the tree myself, reveling in the memories of each one.

I still only use the same small batch of ornaments that we’ve collected over the years.  I wonder sometimes if the secret santa who gave us a set of cheap tin angels in 1992 ever thought that they would still be on our tree 25 years later, not to mention every ornament that I made in grade school, on our tree alongside the ones that my children made.  Though it would be so easy to buy new stylish decor, I never feel the impetus to do so.

Which reminds me of a conversation that I had at a holiday party last weekend.  I met someone new and mentioned that I’d moved to Orange just as soon as my kids finished school in Irvine.

“Weren’t they sad about your selling the family home?,” she asked.

It was a stranger, one I wasn’t ready to fill in on the backstory of my patchwork life.  I am not sure how she would have made sense of our moving eight times in those last three years while the kids were finishing high school.  While I can so easily tell the stories of the rat house, the whale house, and that time that seven sailors were sleeping in the living room, I didn’t this time.  I simply said that we were all ready for a fresh start…

I had a similar feeling a month ago when a colleague asked how I was spending Thanksgiving.  I told them I was skipping the holiday and traveling to Philadelphia to visit my daughter.  I could see that they don’t really understand why I would opt out of the TDay to wander a strange city on my own and pop in to visit Em on her campus.

But it was a lovely trip.  The weather so cold and so bright.  When she wasn’t busy studying we went to the Mutter and the Barnes and the map room of the downtown library.  She showed me her favorite study spot in the campus library and her favorite trees.  We had coffee at Hobbs and water ice at her pizza place and noodles at her noodle place.  We found a swingset by the Friends’ Meetinghouse and swang and swang.  I felt the pull in my stomach as I pumped my legs up into the air I swung back and forth and felt so young and so old all at the same time.  Remembering myself as a young girl who wanted to swing so high, always reaching out my toes into the big blue.  And remembering the hours (upon hours) that I pushed Em in the playground swings, relishing her squeals as she flew higher and higher and further away from me.

When I wasn’t with Em I walked and wandered Philly.  I stood in line for Independence Hall and went on the tour along with the schoolchildren and families, all of us rubbing our hands together and stomping our feet to keep warm while the wind whipped at us as we queued.

It was all worth the wait when we finally got inside and the tourguide told us about the signing of the declaration, reciting those famous words in a practiced voice:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

I looked out the tall windows into the courtyard where we had just waited, to see dozens  still in line.  The wind was outside was gusting, and yellow leaves were swirling and dancing in the golden light of the winter afternoon.


how to charm me…

For years I had a print of a couple kissing in a train station hanging my bedroom.  It’s not the exact one above, but was very much like it.  I got the print while I was an undergraduate in college, and was probably dreaming a bit too much about passionate kissing and not enough about my studies…

Over the years I’ve had a few good kisses.  Some that’ve even held a candle to the one in the photograph that hung on my wall for so many years.

But of late, that’s definitely escalated.  There was that one in Times Square, and the one at Griffith Observatory, and the one at Sacre Coeur at sunset.  Not to mention Montreal, Portland, Cape Cod, Avignon, San Francisco, Brussels, Florence….and one very memorable smooch while I was sitting on the beach in Santa Monica.

And then there’s that one coming up at an airport in just a few hours, where I intend to throw down my travel bags and kick up my heel just like the girl in the photo above…

Previous “How to Charm Me” posts


I really miss the Gowalla app.  I liked “checking in” as I moved around and I learned a lot about my local environment.  One of my favorite tidbits was learning about famous sculptures at UCI that I’d walked past for 20 years but didn’t know about their origin until I’d “checked in” there. It helped, too, that many of my DH friends were early Gowalla adopters and I enjoyed following along virtually with their travels.

Instagram shares a few of the features that I enjoyed with Gowalla, but doesn’t offer the same incentives for check-ins, nor does it connect me to other users (or contacts) who are traveling the same paths as I am.

Recently I downloaded Wenzani which seems to share some of the location-based functionality that I enjoyed with Gowalla, but it’s not really caught on in my area so I’m navigating the app alone (which means it’s no fun, really).  Wenzani strikes me more as an cleaner-looking yelp app than a game.  But I don’t like that Wenzani is pushing its updates to Facebook (I’m incredibly weary of FB right now, but that’s a topic for another day).

a fool’s paradise

We all know how we can be turned around by a magic place; that’s why we travel, often. And yet we all know, too, that the change cannot be guaranteed. Travel is a fool’s paradise, Emerson reminded us, if we think that we can find anything far off that we could not find at home. The person who steps out into the silent emptiness of Easter Island is, alas, too often the same person who got onto the plane the day before at Heathrow, red-faced and in a rage.

Yet still the hope persists and sends us out onto the road: certain places can so shock or humble us that they take us to places inside ourselves, of terror or wonder or the confounding mixture of them both, that we never see amidst the hourly distractions and clutter of home. They slap us awake, and into a recognition of who we might be in our deepest moments. I will never forget walking out onto the terrace of my broken guest-house in Lhasa, in 1985, and seeing the Potala Palace above what was then just a cluster of traditional whitewashed Tibetan houses, its thousand windows seeming to watch over us. I will never forget, too, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem two years ago and feeling, whether I wanted to or not, all the prayers, hopes and complications that people had brought to it. The place is as dark, irregular and everyday as the fights it houses — as worldly and human as the Potala seems the opposite — and yet the very fact that so many millions have come for centuries to pray and sob among its flickering candles ensures that many more will do so, even if, like me, they’re not Christian or Buddhist or anything.”
~From Pico Iyer

Photo from my trip to China in 2005–the first time I traveled sans spouse and children. And, such an important journey for me…