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Staying connected at 90

January 5, 2018

My soon-to-be 90 year old mom announced that her computer of several years was on the fritz, and all her friends suggested that she should get a Mac product. “They’re so easy,” they all insisted. “I watch movies in bed on my iPad,” one raved. “I can FaceTime my grandkids,” declared another.

Who are these people, and why are they enticing my mother to spend way too much money on something that a basic machine can do? Email is a regular visitor on her computer, and she does order her vitamins online, but other than that, she does not take advantage of the myriad of apps and capabilities of these sophisticated devices.

She decided she needed a smart phone, thinking it would be fun to text. To be fair, she has texted at least once every other month in the time she has owned it, but her thumbs have not grown weary from pushing the limits of her data plan.

After numerous conversations and looking into purchasing something used (there are few available), I decided I would get a new laptop and pass on my perfectly fine 2012 to her. I would gain speed and satisfaction in honoring the wish of my mom in a way that was affordable to her. My biggest fear was that she would be calling me with challenges that I would be incapable of diagnosing across the 250 miles that separate us. (or even if I were sitting next to her).

I brought home my sleek Air days ahead of my mom’s visit and then spent the better part of a day with multiple technicians erasing my old one and getting it set up for her. I stuffed a small pillow with hair from my head, but we did get there, which was hugely rewarding.

I was driving her to the bus and reviewing the password, reminding her that when she arrived home in New York State, she would need to connect with the internet there. “Oh I don’t have a password there,” she stated confidently. I nodded vigorously. “Sure you do. I’ve needed it when I come to visit. It’s written down near the monitor.” “Oh, no” she pursued. “I know that there is no password at the assisted living. I’ve never had one.” Uh-oh. I started to get huffy. “Mom, there is absolutely a password there. Bet you ten bucks.” Worried that this basic tenet of computer life was eluding her I opened my mouth to refute her claim once again, but somehow stopped before any words escaped. “Okay, we’ll see,” I shrugged my shoulders, and hoped I didn’t sound too irritated.

Minutes later she changed tacks. “You know, my friends have been telling me about this dating website. I think I’m ready to try it out.” I slid a glance to check her expression. She looked as earnest as ever.

“Sure, why not?” I exclaimed. I realized her friends there would be in a much better position to help with this, too.

My mom has forged a close relationship with the Apple help people. They possess unparalleled patience, and knowledge to address questions great and small. I’m certain that in a few months it will be me calling her to ask what to do when my screen freezes and I can’t shut down my machine. Even if her answer is “Call Adam at Apple,” I still give her credit for being wiling to learn, proving that dogs of all ages can learn new tricks. They just need motivation and a little repetition. I hope I can maintain as open an attitude when I’m pushing 90.

Puns upon a time

I finally found a venue that celebrates the pun in punchline. After reading Away With Words, an exploration of the world of pun competition, I googled the Punderdome. Located in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, where the pundits play, the next monthly competition would be held during the three days I happened to be in New York City with my younger daughter and her boyfriend. Score!

I knew from my read that it filled up quickly, but when we arrived at 7:20 for an 8:00 pm performance, the seats were already filled and the atmosphere was electric. “It’s like a concert!” my 22-year-old daughter exclaimed. Indeed, the excited anticipation of a certain good time was contagious. The DJ was the rocking Chair of old favorites using a pair of turntables, and we were having a blast standing against the side wall.

At 8:00 Fred Firestone, the founder of the Punderdome welcomed the crowd, and explained the set up for us few newbies. Three heats of six contestants, each set given a (hot!) topic and 90 seconds to prepare their bit. During the 90 seconds, people performed a song or a quick ditty to entertain the crowd. After each heat, a human “clap-o-meter” would then be blindfolded, and the audience would rate each performance by applause with the top three moving on to the quarter finals. The top four from these nine advanced to the semis and the top two faced each other in a head-to-head pun off. We practiced what a 10 sounds like, with whoops, hollers and whistles piercing the air. Next we practiced an 8, so that the clap-o-meter would be able to gauge where to move the colorful cardboard dial. It’s one time that it’s good to get the clap!

There were a number of multi-time champs (22, 11, and 5), like Punder Enlightening, whose experience and creativity made them clear stand-outs. The first topic was cats and dogs, perfect for tall tails and those of us seated on fur-niture. Some created a story line. A woman could make us howl with a single paws, or subordinate claws before someone might whisker away. Even the crowd outside waited to pay in a feline so they could sit and stay. Other contestants tossed out one liners: Did you know that any country that loves lentils is a Dal-mation?
Joe Berkowitz (a.k.a Punter S. Thompson) points out in his hilarious, informative book that delivery is important. Indeed a performer’s delight is infectious, whereas a particularly dry punchline may need explanation to land (leeching out the fun). Stand-up comedians who pun are better e-quip-ped than punsters who do stand up for this very reason: delivery.

Phraser Crane, who ultimately prevailed the night we were there, tended toward less obvious puns. When colors was the topic, she asked “Who really wins? It’s hue!!” she exclaimed, extending her arms toward the audience. Discussing a thorny problem, she described it as a prism of her own making.

What a delight to attend an event that celebrates the oft scorned pun. I considered whether I could compete, the courage it would require, even in front of even a friendly and encouraging crowd like this one. These are my people, but could I stand up in this Punderosa where one gets horse with excitement? It’s something to dream about. If ever I find myself back in Brooklyn on the first Tuesday of the month, I will skip over to the Punderdome. It could be my puns in a lifetime opportunity.

Has the ubiquitous customer survey lost its meaning?

I have long been a proponent of feedback. Years before my training as an executive coach or social worker, I believed in the importance of letting someone know of my appreciation for a job well done, or if there was a big disconnect between my expectations and whatever job was at hand. How are people supposed to grow without it?

Recently there has been an explosive upsurge in requesting this “feedback,” particularly with the ease of sending email, and resending and resending til it feels like a screaming (but politely worded) demand.

I have become irritable with not only the volume and frequency, but often the length of the freaking surveys, which should be commensurate with the service. When I had my rotator cuff repaired, there were a lot of moving parts (so to speak) to the procedure, and it was extremely important to me and my health. I was happy to answer questions about the various aspects of this treatment.

However, if I’m buying a tee shirt online, I am not willing to profess at length about my experience. I shopped, I bought, I checked out.

At a recent oil change, the gentleman who processed my paperwork leaned in confidentially and advised me that I will be receiving an email survey and that it didn’t really count unless he had five star ratings, so would I please consider that. Talk about getting a bee in my bonnet! The service was fine, and everyone was pleasant, but I am not going to be coerced into handing out a five star rating. The time I had an unusual light on in my car, which took extra time to fix, they went out of their way to keep me posted and threw in a free oil change because it took so many hours. That’s worth rating, but if we’re supposed to comment on every pack of gum we purchase, or bag of dog food we run in to pick up, we’ll be spending as much time commenting on our experience as living it. Good intentions have gone out of balance.

As I was thinking about writing this a couple of weeks ago, I peered out at the torrential rain and realized that every day but one looked like rain for our upcoming week’s vacation. Determined to enjoy being outdoors in Provence, I started looking for rain boots. Too late even for Amazon Prime, I called LL Bean when I spotted low yellow boots that looked perfect. They did have my size and color there at the store 20 miles away. “Do you need them tonight?” asked the salesperson.

“No, but I need them when we leave tomorrow afternoon,” I replied.

“Well, do you have to come here? Where are you coming from?” I interpreted this question literally, not philosophically and told her where I live and she exclaimed, “I live the next town over, right on the border!”

“Oh you’re right on my bike route!” I blurted out.

“Hey, I’m leaving here in a few minutes. I’ll drop them off at your house.” I protested that I would be out, and she brushed that aside, asking where she could leave them. We completed the purchase over the phone and indeed when I returned home that evening my yellow boots were tucked near the back door. Free delivery. Now that’s what I call exceptional (and completely unexpected) service. And no survey has hit my mailbox, electronic or otherwise. But I will go out of my way to let Bean know that their employee went above and beyond, with grace and good humor. That’s what I call feedback.

The frosting on the cake

October 11, 2017

When I moved to Boston for graduate school 35 years ago, I landed just outside Inman Square. In other words in Rosie’s Bakery Territory. My friend Jane and I would break from our studies to stroll to Rosie’s and drool as we awaited our Chocolate Orgasm or Boom Boom. These were the delectable decisions of distraction. The chocolate sour cream layer cake with the smoothest frosting around was legendary and an event in itself.

My husband and I wanted to feature a Rosie’s cake at our wedding, but we were getting married in New York State, and they advised us that the travel from Cambridge across state lines would not go well for the cake, the frosting in particular.

Now thirty years later, planning our anniversary party, we realized we could indeed serve the San Remo (chocolate and golden layers with raspberry and chocolate frosting in between). Seeking clarification about the size options, I picked up the phone to call. The owner herself answered. Completely not expecting this, I was a bit flustered to find myself addressing a family celebrity. I handled this with my usual cool and collected aplomb.

“Oh wow!” I screamed. “I’m so excited to talk to you!” Mistakenly assuming it was Rosie, the original owner, I blurted out, “We’ve used your baking book for years. It flops open to the chocolate sour cream layers and is totally Jackson Pollack spattered with batter.”

“Ah, as it should be.” I could hear her smile.

“Yes, it is well loved.” Next I launched into the story of how my daughter and her friend at nine years old passionately disputed who made the best chocolate cake, each loyally and confidently declaring her own mom the clear cake maven. It turned out that both moms were diligently following Rosie’s precise (i.e. “set oven to 345 degrees) recipe. I had given her mom the cookbook. Having moved out of easy buying range of the store, the book is an exceptional substitute. The recipes enable the careful follower to duplicate the rich texture and mouth watering flavors from the bakery itself. Patiently hearing me out, she responded, “Oh that’s sweet, such a sweet story.” She also explained that Judy Rosenberg had sold her the business a year ago.

We discussed the various cake size options, the advantages of a sheet cake for ease of serving versus a round cake’s decoration, the double layer versus the single and once I sort out how many people will help us devour the cake I will easily be able to decide which is best.

“So is the book still available?” I asked. “I have given it as a gift so many times. Both of our daughters have their own copies, as do a number of their friends.” We chatted about e-books, and the challenge of having the right number of paperback books on hand. Having published a (non cook)book of my own several years ago, I had ideas about ways to affordably get books on demand. Thrilled to perhaps make a small contribution to getting this vital book out to the public, I sent the link right away.

I considered how many birthday parties over the past thirty years have featured the sour cream chocolate cake, not only for our own family of four, but for my parents, sister and for friends as well. Sometimes with raspberry in the middle, at times with whipped cream, always with colorful decorations, berries, and packed with the delight of sharing moist, tasty cake with people we love. It is impossible to conceive of our lives without the joy that has emanated from this book. The new owner, Galina Laffer, is infusing the business with new energy and the same loving care that characterizes Rosie’s products. What a treat to know that she is as personable and approachable as the Rosie’s creations she represents.

Delights in Provence

September 27, 2017

Spending a week in Provence recently felt a bit like a homecoming. Although it has been many years since my semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, it was a treat to be back.

There is something deeply reassuring about wandering among buildings that were built in the eleventh century, then added onto in the thirteenth century, and perhaps again a century or two later. You can easily discern the difference in architecture (once they are pointed out)—the rounded Roman archways, and the more pointed Gothic ones, with its more elaborate additions and curlicues. Not only are they beautiful, often a glowing smooth yellowish stucco, but the idea that they have been there for a millennium, or in some cases almost two millennium, confirms long continuity of history. Through hundreds of years of changes, wars, political strife, famine and fashion, people gain perspective about cycles, and are much less ruffled by surprises. Everything is one more step in an enormous circuitous chain.

They embrace and celebrate life by spending time with one another, lingering literally for hours over meals, and taking the time out of their mid-day to support this. Businesses closing for two hours around lunchtime are declaring their priorities. Yes, some large stores may remain open during this time, but many others are clearly demonstrating their preferences for enjoying a leisurely repast over making sure they are capturing sales.

The French are almost caricature-like in their passion about food and wine, and for good reason. It is thrilling to be served food that is tended with care to every detail. Exactly which type of cheese, which wine, how they are made, how they combine. They are excited to share their expertise and welcome discussion and challenge.

The senses are further stimulated by driving through the countryside: green and rolling with narrow streets in its small towns and flowers drooping from the smallest of homes. The scent of lavender sometimes wafts through the air. One cannot help but appreciate the pride that exudes from the decoration of their dwellings.

As a visitor, it is particularly welcoming, belying the reputation of standoffishness (although in the south, people are known for their friendliness, as seems to be true in many countries). I recall how I found the extreme opinionatedness of the French to be charming. Their insistence about viewpoint reflects the depth of feeling about whatever it is—politics, laws, the head of foam on a latte. I’m sure it could become tiresome, but I found it to be engaging and entertaining. And I love the language itself. Although obviously rusty from lack of use, words and phrases popped out at (mostly) appropriate times. More time there would enhance my laborious attempts at communication. How satisfying to make oneself understood in sounds so alien to the ear, but so pleasing!

The air, the coffee, the crepes and chocolate, there is so much to recommend about France. I breathed deeply during our week there, delicious in part because it was vacation, but also reconnecting with my early experiences of living in a foreign country. Becoming familiar with new customs, cobblestone streets, walled cities, and at that time, learning that I could get along in a country not my own was so vital.

One week was enough to rekindle my love affair with this beautiful country, rich in history, steeped in culture, color and sound. I don’t even mind the extra pounds that take time to unload; they were such a delight to earn. I must now turn my attention to when to return.

The New world of feedback

I have long been a proponent of feedback. Years before my training as an executive coach or social worker, I believed in the importance of letting someone know of my appreciation for a job well done, or if there was a big disconnect between my expectations and whatever job was at hand. It felt like a responsibility, as I know I would want to know if there were some way I was not meeting an agreement, and I love to hear when I’ve got it right. How are people supposed to grow without it?

The feedback I learned in my organizational consulting training was much more about description than our perceptions of “good” or “bad,” so that people could listen and decide for themselves what needed tweaking or a complete do-over. This was a challenge in itself, but an important skill in encouraging someone to evaluate his or her own performance without the clouding overlay of someone else’s judgement.

In the last few years I was at first really pleased at the increase in surveys after some experience —- at the doctor’s office, the car dealer, or retail store. Given my philosophy, I was diligent about taking the time to fill out and mail back these earnest attempts to improve service. However, recently there has been an explosive upsurge in requesting this “feedback,” particularly with the ease of sending email, and resending and resending til it feels like a screaming (but politely worded) demand.

I have become irritable with not only the volume and frequency, but often the length of the freaking surveys, which should be commensurate with the service. When I had my rotator cuff repaired, there were a lot of moving parts (so to speak) to the procedure, and it was extremely important to me and my health. I was happy to answer questions about the various aspects of this treatment.

However, if I’m buying a tee shirt online, I am not willing to profess at length about my experience. I shopped, I bought, I checked out. Yes, I suppose each one of those phases can be parsed and evaluated, but really?! If it were a complicated order, or required customer service to figure out sizing or a color match for a wedding, I might comment.

At a recent oil change, the gentleman who processed my paperwork leaned in confidentially and advised me that I will be receiving an email survey and that it didn’t really count unless he had five star ratings, so would I please consider that. Talk about getting a bee in my bonnet! The service was fine, and everyone was pleasant, but I am not going to be coerced into handing out a five star rating. In fact the time before I had an unusual light on in my car, which took extra time to fix, but they went out of their way to keep me posted and threw in a free oil change because it took so many hours. That’s worth rating, but if we’re supposed to comment on every pack of gum we purchase, or bag of dog food we run in to pick up, we’ll be spending as much time commenting on our experience as living it. Good intentions have gone out of balance.

As I was thinking about writing this a couple of weeks ago, I peered out at the torrential rain and realized that every day but one looked like rain for our upcoming week’s vacation. Determined to enjoy being outdoors in Provence, I started looking for rain boots. Too late even for Amazon Prime, I called LL Bean when I spotted low yellow boots that looked perfect. They did have my size and color there at the store 20 miles away. “Do you need them tonight?” asked the salesperson.

“No, but I need them when we leave tomorrow afternoon,” I replied.

“Well, do you have to come here? Where are you coming from?” I interpreted this question literally, not philosophically and told her where I live and she exclaimed, “I live the next town over, right on the border!”

“Oh you’re right on my bike route!” I blurted out.

“Hey, I’m leaving here in a few minutes. I’ll drop them off at your house.” I protested that I would be out, and she brushed that aside, asking where she could leave them. We completed the purchase over the phone and indeed when I returned home that evening my yellow boots were tucked near the back door. Free delivery. Now that’s what I call exceptional (and completely unexpected) service. And no survey has hit my mailbox, electronic or otherwise. But I will go out of my way to let Bean know that their employee went above and beyond, with grace and good humor. That’s what I call feedback.

Panic and exhilaration at full gallop

May 3, 2017

I had been yearning to be back on a horse for years. Memories of my time as a teenager, biking to the new stable where they eventually allowed my friend and me to take out horses on our own, have nudged at my subconscious. Even knowing that I would not be accorded the privilege of riding without a guide, the appeal of being in close contact with these beautiful, temperamental beings held a strong appeal.

The feeling of cantering around an open field back then felt timeless. Our hour and a half evaporated. We knew the woods and fields and could pace our ride to have enough time to enjoy the scenery, away from everyone else.
There were ten of us who signed up for the horseback excursion from our hotel in Patagonia and the estancia (large ranch) was clearly well drilled, sizing helmets and readying horses. Several of our group were first timers, and the bulk of the ride was casual walking through lovely woods on one side of the steppe. It was greener here than the arid stretches surrounding the hotel and the glacial lake it bordered.

At one point, the guide asked me if I would like a little gallop before meeting up with the group again. “Sure!” I responded readily, imagining the easy going rhythm of a canter. He signaled one other person from our group and myself to follow the gaucho off to the left.

Once the others were around the bend, without so much as a howdy do, the gaucho took off like a shot, at a full gallop of 340 miles per hour. I was sliding around in my slippery hiking pants and quick- dry panties literally breathless within seconds! We slowed to a walk around a steep curve where the trees hung low and needed to be held aside and then just as abruptly were off at break neck speed. My horse, who had been antsy from the beginning, insisted on bolting past my fellow group member and I wondered whether he had wings that would unfold or was merely applying the after burners.

The saddle was unlike any I had ever ridden, without the horn of a western style, but more bulky than the traditional English saddle. There was a hump in front that I was relieved one could grab in order to keep a seat on the turbo charged beast who had sensed a return to the barn.

Having managed to remain in the saddle I can say that it was exhilarating. I relayed my panic and glee to my family and my husband was quick to point out that he recalled a certain adventure in Colorado where we had traveled to regroup after my mother in law’s death. With one guide for our group of two dozen, the guide asked whether I would mind being in the lead for a bit while he went back to check on the others.

“Happy to do it!” I assured him. As my husband tells it, within moments I had coaxed us into a gallop (we were trotting) and he was horizontal on his horse, managing to stay on by dint of his thirty year old strength. He feels his terror matched my mild hysteria at zooming warp speed with a horse who did not even speak English.

Fair enough. Justice is served. My karma has been balanced. Perhaps the next time I ride, I can achieve a happy medium of pace: walk, trot, breezy cantering and a dollop of galloping at the end when the horse and I are both ready.

New connection to an old friend

You think you know someone. Forty plus years of being friends, starting in college. Years of jaunts to the ski slopes, museums, countless parks and restaurants and you’re pretty sure you’ve got the goods on your pal. We’ve known each other prior to each of our marriages, have been there for births, deaths, illness, the full gamut of what life offers to friends.

Then one day my pally calls up and puts it out there: “I’ve really wanted to go to Patagonia (news to me) and George is just not interested; he travels so much for work. Do you want to go? I’ve been working with a travel agent to organize it.” (Says the consummate planner).

I feel this kind of trip deserves some serious consideration. We’re talking two full weeks and considerable expense. I’ve never traveled more than a weekend without family so I take a full seventeen seconds before shouting, “OF COURSE I WANT TO GO!” There are a couple of details she runs by me before finalizing the itinerary. All I know is that we will be doing lots of hiking (something we have never done together) while we visit glaciers and the stark Patagonian steppe and mountains.

I’m so in, helpless to resist an opportunity to move my body and immerse myself in the outdoors. We know we will be able to give each other space when necessary. Our biggest concern is that I like to sleep in a cool room (read less than sixty degrees), while Susan is cold once the temperature dips below seventy-five.

I learned that Susan’s determination to have something “just right” means that she will walk beyond her hunger danger zone to find just the right place to eat. I learned that when she says “I’m just going to have my coffee and relax” in the morning that I should open the door and then wait fifteen minutes before joining her.

I have known that despite her diminutive stature (five foot one and a size two or zero) she is wiry and strong, but hiking fourteen miles together without flagging demonstrates it in an altogether more graphic way.

We both expressed some concern about the cruise portion of our trip. A small boat designed to navigate the fiords for three days takes us down “glacier alley” and around Cape Horn. We worried about our ability to remain friendly and civil in close quarters with other people (let alone each other) and an hour and half into the cruise Susan turns to me at dinner and utters, “I don’t think I’ll ever do another cruise again.” We both burst out laughing at the absurdity of this preemptive optimism, and there proves to be sufficient excursions and hikes to crush our claustrophobic tendencies.

I become completely absorbed in the vast steppe of the Patagonian landscape, its openness and predictable sighting of guanaco, rhea (ostrich), the occasional fox or condor and the elusive puma. I could not get enough of the jagged, glacier topped mountains which jut up from almost wherever we walk, ride, or sit. Their enduring presence promotes a deep abiding sense of peace and fullness of spirit.

Although we never talk about it, I realize that this is true for Susan, too. We discuss everything from our children to our own childhoods, but this sense of connection to our planet is an underlying, unspoken, and all encompassing theme. It is the cord that binds us to each other, and to the beauty of our world. It was there all along, but it took us to the southern most point of South America for this to emerge in my consciousness.

One does not stumble upon Patagonia. It takes a determined and committed effort to get there. So, too, does enduring friendship require us to navigate periodic cross currents, sun, and downpours. I am deeply grateful to experience both.

Heaven in Patagonia

After driving for four hours from El Calafate, Argentina through mile after mile of rolling desert, or steppe, our driver pulls into what appears to be a completely arbitrary turn, although I did notice the Tierra spiral trademark on the sign. The landscape had been dotted with the customary guanaco, with occasional cattle and sheep interspersed.

The driveway leading to the hotel is a circuitous three quarters of a mile with ostrich-like rhea grazing and a grey fox circulating nearby. The fox is small and adorable, almost domestic cat size. We pull up to the entrance which is dramatic in its low impact on the environment. It is a low graceful curve in brown wood, set a hundred yards back from Lake Sarmiento with the jagged snow tipped mountains of Torres del Paine framing the entire view beyond.

The simplicity of the exterior emphasizes the beauty in which it is set, and focuses the eye on what lies ahead, just as a frame highlights what is within it; your eye is not drawn to the frame itself. This homage to the land and the deep respect that is conveyed in every aspect of the design sets one immediately at ease as the mountains and shimmering turquoise lake cast their spell on every viewer.

With its low profile, the expanse of the entryway is startling with its twenty foot ceilings and undulating curve of glass that features once again the lake and mountains. The “living room” area, adjacent to the round bar and dining room beyond create one hundred horizontal feet of window in which to drink in the view. It appears to be the only show in town and every one of the forty rooms has its eyes set on that arresting piece of landscape, as do the infinity pool and jacuzzi at the far end of the second floor where one enters.

The light and variated Lenga wood with which the interior of the hotel is composed creates a warmth that is reflected in the way the staff greets the guests. This includes the general manager who leaves a hand written greeting in the rooms as well as providing a personal tour upon arrival.

It is the most luxurious camp one can imagine with a bevy of excursions designed to meet every hiker’s needs, and staff to help guests navigate a program of hikes depending on how much time and energy one has allotted this paradise.

Meals are included, as there are no restaurants within miles of the hotel, and lunches are packed for all day excursions.

It is all about enjoying this bold, commanding and unforgiving landscape while being swaddled, fed and cared for with a smile.

This rare treat feeds the soul while nourishing the body, my favorite combo for being away. I drank my fill of this delicacy, and though we did a number of the possible hikes, I know that they would be completely different on a different day, with less wind, or more, cloudy, or more sunny. There would be different animals, a different feel to the landscape; it would be hard to get enough. The guides live nearby and spend the season here. Though I imagine it could be isolating, for a few months it is hard to imagine anything more compelling. Put it tops of my list of “possible jobs for a future life.” It’s good to dream.

Reaching from afar

March 3, 2017

I did not plan to be away during the inauguration and following rallies and marches. Last April when my dear college friend and I were planning our trip to Patagonia, there were not even formal nominees, let alone thoughts about whether to march or where. It wasn’t until December that we put together the timing, realizing that we were leaving two days before Inauguration Day. We were in Buenos Aires during the ceremony itself and in transit between Buenos Aires and El Calafate on the day of the marches.

El Calafate is the on-deck site for Perito Moreno glacier, one of the few glaciers that is maintaining itself; it is growing as fast as it is calving and is thus considered stable. Located in the middle of Argentina, it is a dramatic and stunning rendering of a moving river of ice.

I worried that there could be trouble at the marches. Although designed as a peaceful statement, crowds can be unpredictable, especially when emotions run high, and who knows what would happen? And what could I do from thousands of miles across the planet?

There was wifi in our hotel room and a friend from Scotland posted a photograph of throngs of people in Edinburgh. Tears sprang to my eyes at the thought of people from another country, in a city where my daughter attends University, gathering in acknowledgment and support of concerns on our soil.

In the next minute my daughter exclaimed about the planes that are loaded with people from the UK who are coming to Washington. The tears slipped down my cheeks as I thought about the kind of commitment of time, resources and conviction that this requires and wondered what I would do if I were home.

I believe in speaking up, in being heard, and I believe in people gathering to express concerns, but I am not thrilled about being in huge crowds. When I attended the Paul Simon/ Sting concert at the Garden, I vowed it would be my last concert in this kind of venue.

I posted a request for people to be safe, and went to sleep hoping for the best. The next day my friend and I headed out to hike on the glacier (on the sides, where it is more stable). Later we walked around to view its otherworldly and strikingly beautiful face, jagged jutting pieces of pale and deeper blue overlapping and looking so permanent.

As we gazed at it, we heard a crack like thunder and a small chunk broke off and crashed into the turquoise water. The height of the glacier is equivalent to a twenty story building, and the little chunk that came off was the size of a Mini Cooper, our guide informed us.

Upon return to the hotel, one friend described her experience in Washington, D.C., on the train, then walking as streams of people joined from different streets to converge in larger masses as they flowed together.

I thought about the tributaries of the glacier, rivers of ice and how even though they seem static, they are in fact dynamic, changing structures. It was a good reminder that the reality we are living today is not permanent. I was bowled over by how quickly so many people mobilized all over the world to make clear that threats regarding people’s freedoms and threats to our planet’s health are not going unanswered. Even as I heard people’s frustration about wishing there was more to do, it has become clear that leaders can and will emerge from this chaos. It is not clear yet who, or what forum they will take, but it is early days. The vitality, creativity, and passion are real, and I could feel it all the way in Argentina and Chile. Knowing everyone was okay, and seeing pictures of my husband and older daughter’s thrilled faces, the tears let loose. These are my people. They are all my people. And they are everywhere, ready to mobilize, protect and connect. The question of whether or not I might have marched fades away. We all have our parts, and they are all important, as long as we are all heading toward the same river.