Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Sweetest Gift of Summer




When I was a girl, after dinner and after chasing lightning bugs to fill the mayonaise jar I would put beside my bed so I could watch them flicker and blink until I fell asleep, I would sometimes lie on my back in the field next to my house and watch the stars come out. 

Never mind that the grass stuck to my sweaty legs and mosquitoes hummed in my ears, it was a fine show. Later, as a mother with young children, we piled onto a daybed on the patio and counted satellites and shooting stars, calling out each time we spotted one.

Now, with no lightning bugs to catch and no small children to keep me company, it is my habit to end the day on a lounge chair on the patio behind my house. I stretch out and stare at the sky until one by one the stars start to appear. The other night, as I lay there, I looked up between two pine trees in my neighbor’s yard and noticed a star just at the inner edge of one of the trees. Something distracted me and I looked away but when I looked back at the space between the trees, I noticed the star had moved, or, to be more precise, the planet on which I was lazing, had moved. The star was not as close to the tree as it had been. Time, and the star, had moved on while I was lost in thought.

This was no surprise. All throughout the day I look at my watch or the clock on my computer and I’m surprised to see how many minutes have flown while I was working or daydreaming. But alone in the dark, the ability to mark the passage of time by the stars was somehow satisfying. An ancient pleasure.

The neighborhood grew quiet as everyone left their backyards to move indoors. The parade of people walking dogs to the park on the sidewalk in front of my house ended. The cats gave up chasing insects in the grass and were curled up beside my chair. My little dog was snoring at my feet. 
I could, if I listened closely, hear the sounds of traffic in the distance; a siren wailed somewhere downtown, a plane flew overhead.  Slowly, steadily, the moved star to the other tree. And then it was gone.

Making my way indoors, putting away the cushion so the cats wouldn’t take the chair as soon as I left it, picking up the book I’d been reading that afternoon, I closed the door behind me. But n a way I could never have been when I was a girl, and was often too busy to comprehend when I was a young mother, I was aware of the sweetest gift: time.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com



Monday, August 4, 2014

100th Anniversary of The Great War





Photo: Members of the A.E.F 316th Engineers march into Ypres, Belgium. Taken by a soldier from Havre, Montana.


Today is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. On August 4, 1914, England declared war on Germany.

The war was sure to be over by Christmas so men rushed to join up, to get in on the fun before it was over.

But that was before the battle of Marne. Before the first of the three major battles at Ypres. Before the first trenches were dug in September.

Christmas 1914 came and went. There was the 9-month horror of Gallipoli. The Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. The battle of Verdun took 700,00 lives and at the end of Battle of the Somme more than one million men were dead. 

The “little” war didn’t end for another four years. Men lived in filth and unimaginable conditions in deep trenches, dug in between fields of barbed wire and death and they died in horrifying numbers while gaining little ground. The United States entered in 1917 and in the remaining 18 months of the war we lost more than 100,000 men, almost half due to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. 

By the time peace was restored by the 1918 Armstice, parts of France and Belgium were a wasteland and more than 37 million men, women and children were dead due to injury, disease and starvation. Countless more were broken, "shellshocked" by the experience.

I’ve been reading The Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman’s Pulitzer prize-winning book on the events--the posturing, baiting, catastrophic bungling and arrogance of leaders--that brought about the beginning of the end of the world as it had been. A war that was so terrible, so brutal and, with the toxic combination of modern weaponry and archaic tactics, so inhumane, that by the time it ended an entire generation was lost. 

The book is fascinating. It’s well-researched and incredibly well written--Tuchman’s style is fluid and eloquent and her narrative brings the events leading up to the declarations of war on August 4, 1914 to life. 

But it is impossible to read it and not draw some chilling parallels to the modern political machinations in the headlines. Tyrants, bullies and zealots didn’t disappear when the trenches were filled. Before the ink was dry in 1918, the seeds of the next great war had been planted. And the wars that followed.

And here we are today, a century later, not much wiser. 

History is fascinating but what it ultimately reveals about human nature is discouraging.  To some, power alone is never enough. They want a war.  They need a war. The lesson that never seems to stick is that no one ever really wins a war, not even the victor. 

Here it is, another August, 100 years after the First World War. Just a few weeks ago we marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, another series of epic battles in another part of France during the Second World War. And yet dangerous lines are still being drawn in the sand, secret alliances are being formed and deals are still being struck behind closed doors. 

I’ve had to put the book down for a few days. I needed a breath of fresh air because every word reminds me that even as we make history, we never seem to let it teach us anything.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Friday, August 1, 2014

Royal Canadian Air Force to the Rescue






On my July cruise from Seattle to Alaska aboard the Carnival Miracle, (read more about that here) there were two medical emergencies that required assistance from both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Air Force. In both cases passengers were transported from the ship to hospitals on shore. 

The first was pretty straightforward. A U. S. Coast Guard boat pulled alongside the Miracle near the entrance to Tracy Arm Fjord and the passenger walked down the gangplank and onto the boat. 



The other was not so simple. In dense fog and battling 25 knot winds, the 422 Transport and Rescue Squadron’s CH-149 Cormorant helicopter crew, using night vision goggles, had to hover just above the bow, lower a cable and a diver to the deck, secure the cable, hoist one of the ship's medical staff to the copter followed by the sick passenger and then the diver. I watched from a deck just below the helicopter and it was intense. 



The airlift procedure took almost an hour and the pilot's skill was impressive. 

With thousands of people on a floating hotel, it's not uncommon to have medical emergencies arise. I've been on ships that had to detour to meet an ambulance or medical transport, but standing in the wind and fog on the deck of the Miracle as the helicopter hovered overhead was a new experience. I hope I’m never in need of that kind of rescue, but, if it happens, it's nice to know the experts are at the ready.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just born this way





   I found this 2nd Grade letter in some papers my grandparents had saved.  I'm guessing we were told to write a letter to our parrunts and I was living with them at the time.

   I have no memory of writing the letter so I don't know what was on my mind at the time, but after formally inquiring about my sister and brother (who lived there with me, as a matter of fact) I got right to the point. It would would seem there was waerk to be done and I was willing to do it. I would do the work like Daniel Boone. 

   This morning I sat down to make a to-do list.  And even as I wrote it, I was aware that more than half the list was made up of projects I've assigned myself, things no one is making me do. 

  Are worker bees born or made? I guess it's in my DNA. I can't change who I am. But I did change one thing. A year or so after I wrote this note, when someone checked my birth certificate, I learned I'd been spelling my name wrong.  My mother had forgotten that my Anne had an 'e' on the end.

  Ok, enough about the letter. I need to get back to work.




Sunday, July 27, 2014

A room of my own and all the time in the world


   I want a tree house. I want a play house. I want a fort with a cardboard sign on the door that says Keep Out. I want what Virginia said. I want a room of my own.

   On the surface, it’s a ridiculous wish. After all, now that the children are gone, and the youngest is either away at school or away at her job as a camp counselor, I have the whole house to myself every day without anyone here to distract me. I can work in any room--or all of them if I want to--but it isn’t a longing for space that creeps up on me. It’s a longing for my own space.

Anyone who works from home knows how it is. The rooms around me are full of distraction. Too many years of being the cook and bottle washer, of fitting my work into the time leftover after the family’s needs were met, have left me struggling to separate myself from that previous life. 

  I sit down to write and suddenly remember the laundry that needs to go into the dryer or on the line. I need to edit but it’s 3pm and I have no idea what we’ll have for dinner. I want to sit quietly and think but the sofa is covered in dog hair, again, and I know if I don’t get it now it will only get worse. The grandbaby wants to come to Nana’s and Nana drops everything.

I do a lot of traveling these days. I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms or staterooms aboard ship. If I’m not exhausted, I can get a lot done there and it finally dawned on me that I’m more productive because I don’t feel pulled to keep house or take care of anyone else.

I put my towels back on the rack and my belongings in the suitcase or closet. Beyond that, my time is my own. 

Like anyone who transitions from one life to another, I’m slowly retraining. I’m working on breaking the habit of writing at night, a necessity when I had a house full of children. Now, I keep banker’s hours. Well, I try.

I remind myself the world won’t end if my husband comes home and has to make a sandwich or salad for dinner. It doesn’t matter to him, I’m the one who feels guilty if we end up with scrambled eggs and toast.

Now that it’s summer I keep thinking about the big Hackberry tree in my backyard when I was a girl. It was ancient and its limbs sprawled away from the massive trunk, casting shade across my grandparent’s house. The remains of my mother’s treehouse were still in the crook of the two biggest limbs, a platform of splintery boards that curled at the ends. Once my weekend or summer chores were done, usually dusting, watering plants or sweeping the front porch, I would shimmy up the slats nailed to the tree, often with a book tucked under my arm, and hide away. My younger brother and sister couldn’t follow me and my grandmother, probably relieved I wasn’t hanging on her heels, left me alone.
From that perch I could watch the world go by. Or daydream. Or lose myself in my book.

I think that's why I want my treehouse back. I want my own playhouse. I want a room of my own where I can hide away with nothing but my laptop and an idea and all the time in the world. 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Friday, June 13, 2014

Navigating the Northwest on the S.S. Legacy


I've driven along the great Columbia River and I've looked out on the gorge from the observation car of an Antrak train. I've flown over the river in a plane and by helicopter. All of these modes give a great view of the river but until a few weeks ago I'd never actually been on the river. 

That changed when I boarded Un-Cruise Adventures S.S.Legacy in Portland for a 7-day cruise up the Columbia and Snake Rivers. 

The small-ship Heritage excursion was much more than a week on the water. It was an immersion into the history and culture of the Northwest. 


I've traveled with Un-Cruise Adventures before, on a similar small-ship excursion in Alaska. I wasn't sure what to expect on the river cruise but I quickly realized I was going to have the same kind of immersive, authentic, experience. 


Unless you've experienced the dramatic changes in the landscape as you move from the Pacific Northwest to the interior of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, it's hard to comprehend. 

As we passed through the series of locks and dams that have tamed the wild, fierce, river I heard people talking about the view. 


With a maximum of 92 passengers, the S.S.Legacy is intimate and informal. The food is outstanding and each day as the chef announced the meals for the day, it just seemed to get better and better. (This is another Un-Cruise hallmark.)
Wine and spirits are included in the cost of the cruise and each evening's cocktail hour was a great way to get to know the other passengers. 


Captain Dano Quinn's open bridge policy added another dimension to the trip. My husband loften walked up there after dinner to sit and talk with the crew as they navigated. 

We took advantage of the ship's library and I noticed quite a few others refreshing their Lewis and Clark history while we followed in the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery. 

Each day brought a new encounter. 
From the Native Americans who lived there for centuries before the first fur traders ventured into the area. From Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery, to the men women and children who traveled the Oregon Trail, we explored museums and historic sites. Costumed interpreters on board brought to life the lives of historical figures and everyday people whose life stories were entwined in the development of modern life in the region.


By the time we returned, I knew much more than I'd known when we departed and I had a deeper, richer, understanding of my own back yard. 

 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Un-Cruising the Columbia River

There is something to be said for being a tourist in your own back yard. Especially when you live in a place like the Northwest, a region rich with a diversity of stunning landscapes. 

That's what drew me to the Un-Cruise Adventures Columbia River and Snake River cruise aboard the S.S.Legacy. 

I've travelled the route between Portland and Spokane many times. I've gone by train, automobile and by air. The missing mode of transportation was water. I'd never navigated the river by boat. 

This week I'm cruising the Columbia and a portion of the Snake River on a beautiful 1890s replica coastal steamer.  

So far, the trip has been wonderful. We're following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and I'm in the company of smart, adventurous, enthusiastic travelers from across the United States. They ask good questions and have interesting stories to share. 


This is the third day and we've passed through four locks and watched the landscape change from the verdant green of the Pacific Northwest to the arid high desert of the east side of the Cascades Range. 


We spent time off the boat yesterday, exploring Multnomah Falls and the power house and fish ladders of the Bonneville Dam. 


Today, we're heading to the junction of the Snake River. It's been a great trip so far. 


Monday, May 12, 2014

(Not) Far From the Crowd: Cruise Zen


I'm doing a story on themed cruises and that has me in Miami onboard the Carnival Ecstasy for the Martina McBride performance as part of the Carnival Live concert series. 

The ship departs this afternoon for a four-day cruise with stops at Key West and Cozumel. 

After checking in and boarding at noon, I have a little time to kill until my room's ready at 1:30. I could have gone to the lunch buffet on the Lido Deck but I'm still full from breakfast. So, I looked around for a quiet spot and I found one: the Blue Saphire Lounge. This is where Martina will be performing on Thursday night. It will look a lot different then. 

One of the most common reasons people give for not cruising is the idea of being in such close quarters with the 2,000-3,000 people on board. That's valid. I don't care for crowds either. Just ask my family. I have a Do-Not-Disturb bubble around me the size of Manhattan.
 
But I love to cruise because I've discovered it's always possible to find a quiet corner somewhere. The crowds are on the Lido Deck or around the pool. When I need a break, I go to another part of the ship. 

Like now. 

While the rest of the passengers board the ship, I'll enjoy the peace and quite and get a little work done. 

Like this. 


Monday, February 17, 2014

What Comes and Goes: Organizing Your Travel Essentials



   There is a set of five drawers built into the wall of the guest room of my 1940‘s Cape Cod house. That’s where I stash all my travel things.

   Whenever I pack for a trip, I know I can find what I need in one of those drawers and what I pick up along the way comes home with me and is stashed there. That means, after a busy year of travel, the drawers are stuffed, crammed with luggage tags, eye masks, adapters, hotel amenities, little cosmetic bags from airlines, tubes of lip balm and toothpaste, refillable 3 oz bottles and all the other travel-related odds and ends one collects.

   It’s interesting what we rely on to make travel more comfortable and what we bring back with us. I have a stash of airline socks from overnight international flights and tiny sewing kits from hotels; one makes long flights more comfortable and the other keeps me supplied with spare buttons. I always keep one or two hotel shower caps in my cosmetic bag and I’ve used them for much more than keeping my hair dry. They can wrap a sandwich, protect my camera from the rain or hold shells and sea glass from the beach. I always take a spare when I check out.

   One drawer holds the compression bags that help me fit more in a suitcase, crumpled boarding passes, a luggage scale, a travel-sized hair dryer and flat iron and--amid a jumble of camera chargers-- little notebooks and discarded makeup.  Opening another I find city maps and sunglasses and little souvenirs I’d forgotten I bought.

   January and February are good months to reorganize and get rid of the clutter. I put on a movie or catch up on an entire season of Downton Abbey and go through each drawer, organizing the things I need and tossing what is no longer useful. I sort through the various quart-size resealable plastic bags left over from trips, each with one or two half-empty bottles of mouthwash or hand lotion. I pull out the all the extra tiny shampoo and conditioner bottles and miniature bars of soap from favorite hotels to give to my daughters or donate to programs like AAA’s Soap for Hope.

   By the time I’m done there is room in each drawer. I’m up to day with the Dowager Countess and Lord and Lady Grantham’s headstrong girls. Things are tidy and easy to find and I’m organized for another year of adventures.



Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” (available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane) and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Weight of Words


        


        Lately, I have been editing my collection of books, thinning the shelves, lightening the load of reading material I’ve accumulated over the last decade or so.

Each day I take an empty shopping bag, the sturdy fabric kind with strong handles, down to the storeroom in my basement and I bring it back up full of books. I take the heavy bag to the “used book” counter at the bookstore downtown. They take what they want, give me store credit and I donate the rest to a favorite charity. This has been going on for a couple of weeks now. Over and over again I descend to the storeroom and return with as much as I can carry away. 


I have never been one to resist a good book. It’s not in my DNA. I pick them up at garage sales, at bookstores--new and used-- at airports and library sales. I’m swayed by an illustration, a subject, a cover, an author. I hold the book in my hands and in my mind’s eye I can actually see myself reading it, swathed in afghans, sipping tea, reclining on the chaise lounge in my room. Each book holds the promise of a few moments to myself, the chance that it will improve me, educate me, enthrall me. So I am sold. Then, the book comes home to sit beside my chair, gather dust beside my bed until it is read and, finally, rest on the shelves in my basement. Sometimes I buy a book because someone I know might like it but I either forget to give it to them or realize it wasn’t the right gift after all, and on the shelf it goes.

Every once in a while, when the weight of books becomes too much for the shelves ------and my conscience--to support, I hold myself accountable for the clutter and decide what I will keep for a bit longer and what I will let go.

Some of the books on those shelves are old friends. They are my family. Those books will stay there until I’m the one carried out of the house. Others were impossible to resist at the time, but they’ve lost their appeal.  Some were fun to read but not something I want to keep forever. Others--the travel guides and how-to books, for instance--are obsolete and others are no longer up-to-date. Into the bag they all go. Carrying one bag at a time up the stairs, I feel like I’m secretly tunneling my way out a fortress of words.

Of course, there is that store credit. And I have already brought home one or two new books from my book-selling trips. But that’s something to worry about in a few years. When the shelves fill up again.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s weekly column is published by Spokesman.com. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” (available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane) and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hotel Buffet Communion.

In the morning, when I dress and make my way to the hotel breakfast buffet with the other guests, I notice we are all alike. I study their faces, eyes puffy, faces creased from sleeping too hard or not enough, hair damp and tousled. We don't speak, we don't even speak the same language. We don't try to impress one another.

Some of us behave well, some of us don't, elbowing in to take the last sticky bun or taking too much cheese, surreptitiously building a sandwich for lunch.

I never quite know how to use the coffee machines so prevalent in Europe so I stand too long, hesitating before pushing the buttons, annoying the coffee-starved queue behind me.

No one in the hotel dining room realizes it, but on these mornings when I am far from home, I consider them my traveling family. We are strangers,  but our need is the same and it brings us together: We are hungry. We need caffeine. We are far from home.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Beautiful View: Norway through my Hurtigruten porthole

August was filled with adventure, but my time in Norway was the stuff of dreams. I finally cruised the coast of Norway with Hurtigruten.
I'd studied the photos and words of others who had been there, and the cruise was at the top of my wish list. This summer I finally made it to that beautiful country.

I wrote about the trip for my Spokesman.com Home Planet blog and recorded the essay for Spokane Public Radio.

"For 120 years Hurtigruten Coastal Cruisers have been steaming up and down the Norwegian coast delivering people and goods to the cities and small towns that dot the coastline. And, as if the physical landscape is not breathtaking enough, the seasons add their own drama. In the winter snow covers the rocks and trees and the Northern Lights wash the dark night sky with colors that flicker and dance. In the summer the midnight sun takes over and one day becomes another without a sunset and the water is a smooth as glass."

You can read the rest of the column here

Thursday, August 15, 2013

King Crab Safari at Kirkenes, Norway

(Read my Spokesman.com Home Planet column: Feasting on Crab at Kirkenes, Norway)

We climbed onto the boat and straddled the padded humps that served as seats on our King Crab Safari boat. Our guide pulled slowly out into the fjord at Kirkenes, Norway, before picking up speed. The cold wind whipped my hair and caught my breath as we skirted the shore.

Our guide used a motorized winch to haul up the basket and pulled out more than a dozen giant crabs and took us to the small shack that had been fashioned into a dining hall. He prepared the crabs and then steamed them to perfection. 

It was a feast of abundance. 

The sweet, salty taste of the giant crabs was like nothing else I've ever eaten. And, I suspect, like nothing else I will ever taste again.
 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vigeland Park, Oslo


Near the center of Oslo, a sprawling garden draws locals and tourists every day of the year. The Vigelandsparken, also known as Frognerparken, was designed by sculptor Gustav Vigeland to display the more than 200 sculptures of stone, bronze and iron he created. A massive Monolith with 121 carved into a single stone captures the beauty, pain and struggle of human existence. 

The park was completed between 1939 and 1949, a time of war and social upheaval around the world. 

The morning I visited a soft rain was falling and it deepened the effect of his work, adding drama and emotion to the faces of the sculptures.

 If I lived in Oslo I would visit the park at all times of the day, chasing the light to see the way it paints the figures. 

Cruising the Coast of Norway with Hurtigruten

I'm taking the Hurtigruten coastal cruiser Midnatsol south along the coast of Norway from Kirkenes to Bergen. 

This is not like any other voyage I've ever taken. There isn't the glitz of a mega-ship or the all-inclusive luxury of a European river cruise. It reminds me of a train as we stop at small towns along the way, taking on new passengers or watching others go on their way. Hurtigruten's history as mail ships and a way for Norwegians to travel easily up and down the coast is a rich one. And not far beneath the surface today. 

There isn't any loud music or party on the top deck. The passengers are focused on the view, with good reason: the Norwegian  landscape is unlike any other. Craggy mountains, deep mysterious fjords, barren islands and vibrant, colorful, cities compete for attention.
The sky is light deep into the night, pulling me to the window when I should be sleeping. 

I am in the land of the Vikings and I cannot get enough of this view. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baby Steps: Another 'Third Life' Lesson




"Years ago, I threw myself headlong into into mothering. It was the most frighteningly wonderful thing I have ever done or will ever do. And the reward? Four unique adults who made their way confidently out of my nest just as this little one stepped in." Read the rest


In this week's Home Planet column for the Spokesman-Review, I wrote about watching my granddaughter learn to walk. I raised four children so watching babies crawl and learn to put one foot in front of another is nothing new. But this time, perhaps it's because as the grandmother I have the freedom to step back and observe while her parents do the hard work, I noticed that as she began to take her first steps she never once looked at her feet. She was completely focused on where she wanted to go.

There's a lesson for all of us in that, I think. It's so easy to keep our eyes on our feet and never once look up to see where we are, where we've been and where we're headed.

Now, in my third life, I’m taking baby steps again. I’ve packed everything I have learned from growing up, navigating a marriage, raising a family, building a career and living an ordinary life in an extraordinarily complicated world. I've got a lot of experience and a little wisdom and I still have the curiosity of a child.

I’m ready to step back out into the world and see a few things.





Monday, July 8, 2013

The Girl in the Garden




For a few minutes tonight, I was 8 years old again.

After dinner, I stayed outside playing in the back yard until I suddenly realized the sun was long gone and it was getting too dark to see clearly. The lights in the house were bright through the windows.

Still unwilling to go inside and let the day fade away completely, I sat on the back step listening to the birds sing out in the dark as they called it a day. Something must have dropped down my collar while I was digging around under the rose bushes and I wriggled as I tried to find whatever was tickling me. My hair was tangled with leaves and petals.

The air was cool and soft and smelled like flowers and dirt. My cats stalked imaginary prey in the grass. I was tired and dirty and perfectly content to be exactly where I was at that moment.

When I finally opened the back door and stepped inside, I didn't feel at all like a grandmother. I felt like a girl who'd made the most of a long summer afternoon.

That's the beauty of this stage I call my third life. Sometimes, when I least expect it, I turn a corner and find myself.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

There is nowhere like the Northwest

More often than not, flying home from a trip means I have to fly into Seattle or Portland to catch a short flight back over to Spokane. Sometimes, when I'm already tired and jet lagged, I grumble. But every now and then I look out the window and I'm reminded that extra hop is a gift. There is nowhere like the Northwest. 

Last Saturday, making my way back home from a week in the south of France followed by a cruise from Quebec City to Boston on the Holland America Veendam, I flew into clear skies and a beautiful sunset that washed Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams with soft, beautiful hues. Like a lot of others on the Alaska Airlines flight, I pulled out my phone and  snapped a photo. It reminds me that I'm fortunate to live where I do and the extra miles it takes to get home are an opportunity to see things most people only dream about. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rediscovering the Pleasures of Solo Travel



When I was younger I thought nothing of getting on a plane or train or hopping in my car and heading off to somewhere I'd never been before. And I never minded going alone. But after I married, and then started a family, those solo trips were few and far between. Oh, I got away occasionally, but for the most part, we traveled as a family.

It wasn't until my children grew up and started leaving the nest, and my time was once again my own, that I felt comfortable taking off on my solitary adventures again. And I've discovered I'm in good company.



Maybe it was the influence of Eat, Pray, Love or simply a reflection of some other social marker, but it seems  the number of women who are choosing to travel alone is increasing. And I don't mean college students or gap-year wanderers.

I keep meeting and hearing from women who, like me, have worked hard and raised a family and are now enjoying the freedom of an empty nest.

Travel is a gift we can give ourselves, and solo travel is especially rewarding. It gives me time to think and time to write. In fact, I've written about the unique guilt and rewards of being a  traveling mother.

I like to think by not being afraid to strike out and go somewhere on my own, I'm an example of independence to my daughters. In this week's Home Planet column at The Spokesman-Review, I wrote about being a woman who sometimes goes it alone and I shared a list of a few of the things I've learned along the way.

Read Tips for Women Who Travel Alone and tell me what you would add to the list.







Wednesday, March 20, 2013

D-Day Veterans and the Beaches of Normandy


 Earlier this month I was speaking to a representative of the Normandy region of France. When asked about the annual pilgrimage of WWII veterans who make the long trip to revisit the D-Day beaches that were the site of their war experience, he said something that made me think.

"This is probably the last year, or one of the last years we can expect veterans to attend," he said.

The men and women who fought in the war are fading away. Each week's obituary page is filled with notices. Soon, they will all be gone.

In late November 2012, I toured the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. I strolled through the garden, read the names inscribed on the wall and studied the sculpture and fountain commemorating the battle. It was deeply moving to think about the scope and drama of the events of June 6, 1944. More than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and 150,000 servicemen were involved. It was, from all accounts, hell on earth.


I'd like to make the trip to the beaches of Normandy while there's still time to see it through the eyes of the men--and women--who were there. Before they're all gone.