Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

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.

An image of youthful daring nurtured

November 15, 2016

I knew before walking into the gallery that the images greeting me would be spectacular. Even in their mini version online they are captivating: complete, compelling and fulfilling. Rendered large they command the space, emanating a sense of wonder at the beauty that exists on our planet. The lines and color and juxtaposition of hues at once capture a very specific moment in time as well as an eternity, an enduring sense of timelessness. Photographer Seth Resnick talks about his interaction with his subjects both human and not, the exchange of energy that he allows and encourages. This reflects in the mages that emerge. They are rich, full of intention and respect. Paired with glass sculptures by master Peter Bremers, which offer a gorgeous complementary interpretation of similar themes, the exhibit is an extraordinary treat.

I am reminded of a long ago tennis instruction to swing through the ball, not to just meet it. Using the body and a full swing gives the ball much more power and impact. Same with music. Even with an instrument such as piano, where the notes are struck, one can imbue deep meaning by allowing emotion to flow through and convey feeling.

So too, with the click of a shutter a great is transmitted which draws upon selection, pattern, and a sense that is only developed through experience and constant attention.

The added dimension of delight in this exhibit is that I have known Seth since birth. Our mothers were friends who started a preschool when we were three (which we evidently ruled until we left for kindergarten). We spent many contented hours at play and I recall Seth’s passion and zeal for whatever he did. His fascination with rocks was evident as a child and he used the tumbler to polish the stones to a glittering shine. We dragged lawn chairs in front of the house at night to gaze at the sky, and this early devotion to the natural world has clearly carried through to the work he produces today. Seth worked at a pet store as a teenager and created elaborate fish tanks at home, perhaps nurturing his eye for color, form and pattern.

Most fun all is that although we were largely not in the same classes in our enormous high school, we both took photography for the first time as seniors. Our overcrowded school was on split sessions and there were a number of us who enjoyed countless unscheduled hours in the lab perfecting our prints. Who could have known that this nascent time experimenting in photography would be the thread that would power Seth’s career. My own experience in the darkroom was that time became irrelevant, and I would often find that hours elapsed before being willing to stop and take a break.

Seth’s singularity of focus, dedication to his craft, and eagerness to engage with the world have coalesced in the sophisticated artist he is today. His continued fixation with light, texture, shape and openness to understand what he encounters distill the images to exquisite, dramatic moments.

Visiting his exhibit at the Sohn Gallery in Lenox was a deeply satisfying look at a prolific and influential leader in photography today. And for me, it was a reconnection with my childhood pal and seeing how the exuberance of youth, nurtured and developed by family and education can illuminate a path to international expertise. It inspires us to be the best of who we are, open to possibility, embracing opportunity with the confidence that new experience determines who we can be as much as we influence what we find. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Mammoth impact of documentary about elephants

June 29, 2016

One would have to be made of stone to not be moved by Sangita Iyer’s award-winning documentary, Gods in Shackles, about the torture of elephants in temple rituals in India.

The movie opens with a scene shot during the largest festival of the year, in an immense square teeming with people and a line of elephants on either end. The elephants are bedecked in glittering color down their long foreheads and onto their trunks, and ridden by men who use sticks with barbed ends to keep them in line. Their beauty and height above the crowds make them a dramatic symbol and dazzling border to the intensity of the thirty-six hour continuous activity. I suppose it could be easy to forget that they are not merely decorations, and not an imperative part of this celebration.

Iyer, Toronto based journalist and documentary film maker, brings our attention to the fact that they are sentient and particularly sensitive beings, and this is being ignored in their treatment and use in ceremony. She points out their painfully raw ankles where the shackles rub them for hours on end, and reminds us that their feet, which are built for the softness of the grasslands, are tormented by hot pavement and unrelenting sun. Their feet are also made for many hours of movement a day, in order to find feed for their enormous frames. Standing still for hours at a stretch is in itself an excruciatingly painful practice.

Perhaps most frightening are the firecracker-like noises which punctuate the festival. The majestic elephants, with extremely keen hearing, are subject to these blasts without a way to react or move in response. What results when they do bolt or move suddenly out of fear and frustration is injury (or death) to nearby people or the elephants themselves. These avoidable tragedies are part of what drives Sangita forward in her quest to end this practice.

I sit at the world debut screening at Elephant Walk Restaurant in Cambridge, and know I am among like minds. There are PETA representatives, and people who are already sympathetic to the plight of these magnificent creatures. Many of us are nervous about watching the movie. I could not watch Lassie or Flipper as a child; even with predictably positive outcomes, I could not bear any potential (or imagined) suffering that might befall these stage animals. Now we are watching multiple ways in which these real life gentle giants are mistreated without thought.

I am prepared to avert my sightline during very graphic shots of wounds inflicted not only to the ankles, but ears and eyes as well. But the places that truly take my breath away are the scenes where Sangita herself is meeting the elephants, helping to bathe them and embracing them with the kind of love one sees between parent and child. Her joy is radiant and jumps off the screen – it is this passion which is infectious, and matched by her professionalism in documenting the fate of the elephants.

The event is also a fundraiser to help get the multiple award-garnering film to the seven cities where it will screen in India, and Kerala, Iyer’s home province. Although Iyer wants it distributed yesterday, she is aware that the process of moving it forward is circuitous and that each gradual step counts toward her goal of liberating the elephants and restoring them to the wild where they help maintain the delicate balance in the ecosystem.

It is a rare privilege to support this intensely focussed, humane, and inspired movement to return these beautiful animals to the place where their spirits soar. Visit www.godsinshackles.com

Blown away by the Manta Ray

June 8, 2016

Off the coast of the big island of Hawaii, we don wet suits, snorkels and masks and splash into the salty Pacific. As dusk approaches we make our way the short distance from the chartered boat to the raft, grabbing the red handles that ring the structure in order to float with legs stretched out.

Within minutes a twelve foot Manta Ray swims into view not four feet away, its wings flapping fluidly as it banks left and swims off. “Argglg!” I exclaim through my snorkel. Even though we are expecting them, the appearance out of the depths is still startling, as is their size of up to sixteen feet from wing tip to wing tip. Within several minutes there is one after another looping up in front of us, gigantic mouths wide open and gills spread to filter and catch as many plankton as possible. We see their gray and sometimes spotted top and white belly as they make several circuits in a row and I am in awe of the acrobatic and graceful arc that they carve as they repeat this choreography. My eyes grow wide and I am wonderstruck at their size, elegance and utter grace. They come within inches of our outstretched bodies, and several times I’m certain that one of their wings will brush against me.

Suddenly a shout pierces the air. “SH*T! OH SH*T!” It is the teenager from the family of five. “MOM, IT’S SO HUGE!” he bellows at the top of his lungs. At first I am annoyed, worried that his screaming will scare the Mantas. It quickly becomes evident that this is not the case as more of these enormous creatures make their way to the lights from the raft, which attracted the plankton. The boy cannot contain himself. Any veneer of teenage cool has vanished as he continues at volume ten: “MOM, IT’S SO CLOSE. THEY’RE AMAZING. IT’S LIKE A BALLERINA DANCE. SH*T!” Now it is pee-your-pants funny. And the joy that is unselfconsciously bubbling up from him is contagious.

His voice booms utter astonishment mixed with a touch of fear, as he is completely overcome with these toothless and stinger-free giants. I cannot even fathom how he can keep his mask underwater while his mouth is above water to narrate his flabbergasted observations. Anything I try to say comes out in a garbled mush. My husband, who is immediately to my right does not even hear him at all, we find out later. My 26 year old daughter is in between the kid and me and is as tickled as I am.

Even as we are reverent, and silently witnessing the majesty of the moment, there is a part of all of us that feels exactly like this fifteen year old. We all want to scream and shout and wiggle all around and it is just our desire to interfere as little as possible (and our snorkels) that help us to remain silent. For every moment that I am speechless, he is broadcasting the magic with his natural megaphone.” SH*T! OH MY GOD! IT’S A LITTLE SCARY BUT THEY’RE SO COOOOOOL!” Honest and pure, life giving and hilarious, unadulterated WONDER.

I am IMMENSELY GRATEFUL that the unbridled enthusiasm of this awestruck teenager was PRESENT to enhance our reverence of these magnificent animals of the sea. They will remain forever favorites, coupled with the neon lit expletives provided by our young friend.

To Nepal With Love

May 23, 2015

The recent earthquakes in Nepal have shaken us all. Whenever there is a natural disaster of this magnitude there is an element of “there but for the grace of God go I.” Even if we do not live in or near the areas that are hit by tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes or earthquakes, it is always possible that we have or would visit, too. I think about my travel to Nepal in 2012 with my then 17 year old daughter. She studied meditation and Buddhism at a monastery in Kathmandu (as part of her senior project) while I trekked to the Annapurna Base Camp.

We crossed paths with people multiple times, and one group we ran into at lunch one day was comprised of four or five young men, generally guided by Bishal, a native of Katmandu. He had a connection with the brothers who were traveling together. I think they had decided on a whim to hike to the 14,000 + foot Annapurna Base Camp. The brothers are from a small town in the Hudson Valley where my mom still lives. I expect coincidences all over the world, but was still amused to meet these guys who shared my love of the small but steep Shawangunk Mountains.

I surmised that they had decided fairly impulsively on the hike because while my friend and I studied the list of recommended gear (which included a sleeping bag rated to zero degrees), they had struck out in sneakers and no gloves. We donated wool socks to keep their hands warm and I dubbed it the youth versus equipment tour. We ended up at the same lodge that night and paid for the smelly kerosene heater to be lit from underneath the table so that we could all linger after dinner and chat, and listen to one of them play his fiddle with his stiff and barely moving fingers. (Yes, did not have hiking boots, but did have his fiddle.)

We crossed paths once again at the Base Camp itself. They were initially going to spend the night at a lodge just below (meaning a couple hours hike) but heard a prediction for snow that night so they decided to make for the basecamp or would miss it entirely. Indeed, a blizzard raged, producing two feet of snow that afternoon/evening, so we (about twenty of us) parked ourselves around the long table where we ate, again paid to have some heat under the table, and played cards, told stories and munched dinner provided by the staff there. We took turns telling travel tales and our world of that one room was populated by people from Nepal, Mexico, Japan, Switzerland, France, Austria and the United States. We exchanged emails and promised to be in touch.

I have heard from Bishal off and on over the past three years, a friendly Hey how are you, or a comment on a Facebook post. He went on to get the proper equipment and post photos from the Everett Base Camp and other places along with thoughts about the beauty of nature and the importance of getting out to see it.

After the recent quakes Bishal reached out to request help. We sent some money directly to him which felt good, if small and not enough. He posted pictures of bags of food that he shared with his community and family. Now living in a hostel and having lost his younger sister to injuries from the quake I continue to think about the massive losses the Nepali people must navigate. I have no doubt they will make their way but at unfathomable expense.

I have committed to writing about our experiences so that others may have a glimpse into what was before it undergoes this next transformation. The majesty of the mountains will endure, though travel through is deeply affected. The culture(s), too, will permeate everything they do, but I will write from my lens, and offer my view from my seat on Top of the World as I continue to contemplate how to support these people facing the biggest challenge of their lives.

Launching of students and parents..

September 14, 2014

I had thought that the last two years would protect me from the feelings that arise when your youngest child heads off to college. She had spent half of the first year following high school living at home, working two jobs in order to pay her way to a South African volunteer position in an elementary school. After those four months, she travelled through Europe for several weeks with a friend she had met while volunteering.

There were long stretches when we did not hear from her, and I could see the fabric of her independence taking shape, along with a thirst to explore the world, get to know people of different cultures. I trained myself to understand silences as time when she was taking a jaunt outside the city, or within. I learned that the sweep of parental concern is not bound by time zones or country borders. Her return from this trip produced a desire to attend college in “a more central location,” which to her, in an English speaking place, meant Scotland. We had laughed. Central? Central how? But having friends now scattered around Europe, and having experienced the bus-like ease of air travel in Europe, Scotland now felt like an appealing base from which to study.

This meant reapplication to University and a cashing in of her already deferred acceptance to Connecticut College. It also meant a second year off because Scottish universities demand SAT subject tests which Conn had not. Working half the year on Martha’s Vineyard to fund her travels in the spring to New Zealand determined that being a couple of hours away on an island off the coast of Cape Cod felt close by, and being across the world and eighteen hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time was another lesson in establishing trust that she could both support and take care of herself.

Given all this training, university in Scotland seemed like it should feel nearby —almost like being in California, but the other direction, right?

We created a family vacation just before the start of Freshers week, with our older daughter flying up from Colombia to meet us. Together we delighted in the the Edinburgh Castle, the dramatic Scottish highlands and historic St. Andrews before move-in day, when we all trooped up the four flights of stairs to Kate’s new flat. We busied ourselves with procuring necessities while she unpacked: pillow, laundry basket, a few plates and cups, and met her friend, now a senior at Edinburgh, for dinner. More walking and then it was time for us to get back to our bed and breakfast across town.

Tears leaked from my eyes as we hugged first one daughter and then the other. Gale was returning for several more months in Columbia, at least, and Kate was beginning four years in Scotland. It is not fear; it is not worry. They have established their capability and delight in being where they are and proven how resourceful they can be in challenging times. We can connect by phone, take advantage of Skype and What’s App when the opportunities arise, and service exists. Email and Facebook are available points of connection.

It is the being together, the laughs that come from speaking at the same time, the connections from looking at the same piece of art, tasting the same new foods that I will miss. We will always have visits, and I will love them wherever and whenever they happen. I am so proud of the women they are and continue to evolve into, but two years of having our daughters in far away places did not inoculate me from the wistfulness of knowing that we are now fully a home base for our girls, but that they now have homes in places we can only take planes to visit.

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