Oh yes, Mother Nature is continuing to have her mood swings. It’s the beginning of April, I have Red Sox tickets for a game that is just about a week away and I’m looking out my window with a view of no lake (which is normally something I love to see out my window) and snow falling like it has no idea how to stop. Sigh. The days are longer, for which I am very grateful, but some warmer temps would certainly make me happy. I keep reading blogs from thru hikers that are on the Appalachian Trail and even in Georgia, Mother Nature is having her way with people. Wind, snow, frozen fingers. But, the hope remains that spring is on the way. There is a certain amount of beauty when the snow is first falling and hasn’t been disturbed and I can appreciate that. I think it is important to always recognize the world around you for even the smallest glimpses of joy and be fully present in appreciating them. I have less understanding for those people that thrive on being miserable or taking pleasure in other people’s misery. I don’t see the point. And my answer to people when they ask why I’m so happy is, why are you so unhappy?
I generally think that once March hits and daylight savings time has happened again, things will start to look up. And they do, I always am so happy to see the longer days and the thought of baseball right around the corner. However, I am a New England girl and I am not immune to reality of what that means in regard to late season snow storms. So, of course, as we get pounded again with another foot of that fluffy white stuff that some people seem to enjoy; I am just wishing it would go away. However, I keep telling myself that in years past, there has been snow into April and I still managed to have a perfect day at Fenway. Those are the thoughts that keep me from going crazy as I listen to talk of yet another upcoming storm…
Football is over and so is my patience for winter. I know, I am a girl from Maine-I should be used to it. Well, I’m here to say that I am not and seriously doubt that I ever will be. My mind if very focused on warm weather and baseball. I want to be able to drive and not have huge snow banks blocking my view. I want to not worry about slipping on the ice and cracking my head open; despite the badass scar I would then have. I would like not have the weather dictate what my plans are. I am not totally negative about this though. I do think it’s very pretty when snow is coming down and I’m not driving in it. It is beautiful on the trees before it’s disturbed. Snow shoeing is a lot of fun-winter hiking in a manner of speaking. But, I do always get antsy when spring is on its’ way. Spring training for baseball is starting. The equipment truck has already left Fenway. I suppose that means we’ve turned one of the many corners on the way to spring.
Last month I needed to escape the cold and snow of the northeast. I was invited to join a group of my girlfriends for 9 days in the warm Bahamas sun. As usual I had all kinds of ideas for things to do and see. It was an opportunity to see someplace new. I had previously been to Freeport, but this trip was to Nassau. I went down a couple of days early to meet up with one of my friends and we were able to spend time at Atlantis, which I had always wanted to see. That place is enormous and overwhelming! I did see the dolphins and the “ruins” of the city of Atlantis. There were these beautiful manta rays swimming in there that I became fascinated by.
The following day, we were met by most of the rest of our group and we went to a nearby resort called Baha Mar to check out what they had to offer. We swam in many of their pools, saw their sea life in caves, jumped off rocks and marveled at how warm the pools were. This year was apparently one of the coldest on record. I didn’t get that at all-it was 75 degrees and I’m a northern girl. Anytime I can wear a bathing suit outside in December is just fine with me. During the course of the week, we visited Clifton Heritage Park, where the snorkeling is some of the best that the Bahamas has to offer. We had the beach totally to ourselves-not complaining at all about that! There is quite a bit of history there as well. I could have spent quite a bit more time exploring there. We also experienced downtown Nassau including the straw market. You really need to be prepared for that! The people selling things are in fact relentless. It can get overwhelming and exhausting. The end of the week was reserved for lounging by the pool and catching some rays. It was so nice to see some of what the island had to offer and also have enough time to just relax next to some beautiful water!
The following is a blog post that I did for another site, but feel it is appropriate for this month. I am facing the anniversary of my Mom’s death as well as having several friends who are going through equally hard times.
August 29, 2014
Seven months had passed since I had lost my mother in an unexpected manner and today was the one I had chosen to celebrate her beautiful life. A gathering of family and friends that were dear to her, in a place that positively captured her heart.
The Celebration of Life was held on a village green nestled between a harbor filled with boats and rows of cute little vacation cottages. The same cottages that she had spent a couple of summers renting. It was mid July and the Maine weather was truly a joy: a few clouds, a comfortable temperature and a breeze that beckoned everyone to enjoy summer. The ceremony was very simple and filled with things that Mom would have loved: music, the ocean, family and a feeling of love.
At the end, I felt the sadness I couldn’t avoid, but also a sense of peace that Mom would have more than approved. She would have loved to go out on the sailboat after and that’s part of what made the day more wonderful.
Several of my family members went for an afternoon cruise including my aunt, (Mom’s youngest sister) whom had never been sailing. It always gives me a profound joy to take someone sailing that has never been. I love to see their look of wonder and enjoyment, because it’s the same way I feel every time I am on the ocean. My whole life has been filled with sailing and the ocean. I don’t ever feel completely at peace or at home unless it is nearby. My earliest memories involve the water. The ocean is such an integral part to our family that I don’t think any of us would be able to live happily without it. I remember once my step mother saying about my Dad, “You can take the boy out of the ocean, but you can’t take the ocean out of the boy.”
And as we took to the Penobscot Bay, it was with great joy that we could all be together. My aunt and I put some of my Mom’s and my step father’s ashes into the water along with some blessed flowers. I know deep within my heart that Mom would have found that appropriate. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the good company, capturing wonderful pictures and relaxing. Thankfully there were more laughs than tears and my aunt said to me that it was one of the best days she had had in a long time. I won’t ever truly say goodbye to my Mom, but this was a good way to move past the sadness, hurt and anger that I had experienced.
It was a rainy, dreary day and Clare has the flu. So, I decided to head up to the War Memorial Museum. There is A LOT there to see and it’s overwhelming. They have some exhibits called “Scars of the Heart” about WWI and WWII that got a little too real and somewhat frightening for me. I did enjoy seeing the museum though. I did also watch a Maori (the indigenous people of NZ) performance that was very good. There was dance, song and history. Back at the hotel, I went to the rooftop bar/restaurant and had a late snack. It was very beautiful to see all the Auckland lights.
Clare was feeling better and managed to make it on time for the bus to Hobbiton. However, the pickup wasn’t at the right place, so we missed it and the driver had to come back. No biggie. We stopped at a café about ½ way there and Clare wanted hot water with lemon-they ran out of lemons, so they just went out back to pick some more-A+ for freshness! We continued onto Matamata for lunch-I tried a chicken, bacon, leek pie with some sort of sweet sauce. It was pretty good. I don’t need to have it again, but worth trying something new. We then went to the “start” of the movie set tour. We got on another bus (this one is specific to the movie set) that took us to the start of the walking tour. It is located on a farm that some family owns, you can’t just wander down in there on your own. Our tour guide was Hori and he was fun! We walked all over the Shire and I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was to see all the familiar places! We were able to see Bilbo’s house-only the outside. None of the houses are finished on the inside-that was all filmed somewhere else. We had a drink at the Green Dragon. Goodness knows how many pictures I took, not to mention, Clare was using my camera also. We got back to the city around 9pm and I just hung out in my room.
Did basically nothing today. Finished some things for work that needed to be taken care of before I start my new job when I get back. I got food from the little bakery down the street that I think might be vegan. Dinner at the rooftop restaurant-saw my French bartender, David, again. Then when I got back to my room, there was a lot of street noise so, I went to the lobby to check it out. I was told it’s pretty normal Auckland. It was a a bunch of people playing music and dancing in the street.
Another relaxation day. Clare is still pretty sick, but she came over and we went to the planetarium together. Then came back to my room and just had order in pizza.
Last full day here. As I was getting into bed, I realized I am leaving tomorrow instead of Tuesday like I originally thought. I had it in my head all week that I was leaving on Tuesday and not Monday. That sent me a little over the worry ledge. I have no idea how I got that idea in my head, but so glad that I figured it out in time. Clare and I picked up Lauren (whom we had met on Waiheke) and we met Erika (Clare’s friend) at the market at Takapuna. It’s there every Sunday and there are lots of vendors. We then went to brunch at a Mexican place and were told by the waiter that he loved our accents. J We then walked down to the beautiful beach and then back to Clare’s car. She dropped Lauren and I off at the bus station and I rode the bus back to the hotel. Lazed around this afternoon, went to dinner at the restaurant at the top of the hotel-delicious.
Not much today. Kind of an early start. Ate breakfast and headed to the airport. An uneventful 3ish hour flight and then through customs again. So glad that New Zealand will stamp your passport-Australia, sadly has stopped doing that. I do love looking at the stamps in my passport. Once at my hotel-Grand Mecure Auckland, which I would like to say, has some of the friendliest and most helpful staff that I have ever encountered. My sister told me that NZ is famous for its’ hospitality and they take pride in it. She was right! From start to finish, I couldn’t have picked a better hotel to stay at. (My travel agent is amazing!!) Anyway, at the hotel, I unpacked and waited for Clare. It was SO wonderful to see her! We went to a place for dinner called White and Wong-very loud, but good food. Tonight, I am staying at the place she is housesitting at in the sticks, outside of the central city. Tomorrow off for a wine tour. Interestingly enough, I found out later (after staying in the house) that people in NZ do not insulate their houses and they don’t have heating systems at all like in the U.S. It was a bit shocking to wake up in the morning and see my breath inside. They are pretty hardcore there. Just another instance of me noticing how centered upon comfort we are in this country.
I stayed with Clare at one of her house sitting jobs. Houses in NZ are generally not insulated, so it was VERY cold. On the way into Auckland city, we were caught in an accident and missed out ferry to Waiheke Island, but luckily, we were able to catch the one that was 30 minutes later and it really didn’t impact our tour at all. Yay! We are at Little Frog Café in Oneroa-it was pretty good. Cute little town. We toured a bit of the island-so very beautiful. If someone had told me I was on of the Caribbean or Hawaiian islands, I would have believed them. I really do hope that cute little island doesn’t get too popular and overrun with tourists hell-bent on stealing its’ charm. Our first winery was Kennedy Point. We had a Sav. Blanc, a blend called Red Trumpet and Syrah. (Also known as a Shiraz) Right before we left, we had a sav oyster shooter. It was a “work party discovery” that involved an oyster dropped in Sav blanc and you shoot it. Their advice-“Shoot, shake and swallow.” I was a little nervous, but it wasn’t bad at all-in fact, fairly tasty. A pretty good story for the 2nd oyster I’ve ever eaten in my life. We then went to Dellows and had 3 wines there. (I took pics of all the bottles we tried, full well knowing there wasn’t a chance that I would remember them all) They had so many flavored vodkas and gins, including a bubble gum vodka. No thank you. I didn’t try any of them. We then went to Batch winery for some STUNNING views. We tried 4 wines there and I bought a bottle. Our tour guide took us to see some of the homes of rich people on the island and then we caught the 1700 ferry back to Auckland. I just went to my room and relaxed. I need to take care of some work stuff tomorrow, so it will be a downtime day. I feel guilty, but I do also need some vacation time.
Today was a relax day. I slept in and went for a coffee. It has been an experience learning a whole new way to order coffee. There are so many unfamiliar options, but I quickly learned that I am a mocha girl, not flat white or flat black…mocha. I then went and tried to get some work stuff done-no dice. So, I decided to go visit the Sky Tower since it was another (unusual) beautiful, sunny day. The view was incredible. I could see both coasts (I think) and it was really interesting. I stopped at the casino there and ate lunch before I came back to the hotel and hung out.
I started out the day with a city tour that went on Queen Street (most shops on any street in Auckland) and Quay St (pronounced Key) that ran along the harbor. We went by the War museum, the university of Auckland and Parnell district. The War Museum is on the Domain. We also went up to a lookout at the Michael Joseph Savage memorial. After that was a harbor tour that included a trip out to Rangitoto Island. I love all the volcanic history!
I am so fortunate to be able to have gone to Australia and New Zealand this year! It was a trip of a lifetime. Below are my journal entries from my time in Australia. NZ will be to follow.
July 24, 2017
Early start-0500 to run a couple of errands and then to catch the 0730 bus to Boston. I had to leave early due to a job interview that I had to take that was scheduled for my original bus departure. Got the job too! Despite doing the interview in the middle of Logan airport!
Uneventful flight from Logan to LAX. However, LAX to Sydney flight was delayed by almost 2 hours. I didn’t even really realize it until I had watched almost an entire movie and noticed that we hadn’t moved yet. As if the flight wasn’t long enough to begin with! And they had us really cramped in those seats! I was so wishing I could have had one of those space age pods up front! Essentially, the flight was mostly miserable-the 3 meals they fed us were good. Arrived in Sydney at 0830ish on 7.26.17. I can’t say that the airport was well marked. Well, either it wasn’t well marked or I was just so overtired that I just couldn’t make sense of things. Onto the Park Royal Darling Harbour hotel. It’s a nice place and they even had a “Welcome Makesha Mealey” on my tv screen-a first for me. I went off to find postcards and to the Hard Rock Café for my shotglass. Then tonight is a harbor cruise.
The harbour cruise last night was okay. The food was good and the lady singing could sing, but sang some very odd versions of songs. There was no commentary, so I really didn’t know what I was looking at and didn’t get much out of it. The only thing I did recognize was the Opera House.
Today started out fairly early with a city tour. We rode over to The Rocks and did a short walking tour. The Rocks is where the first street (George St) was in Australia. It was originally an aboriginal road. There is quite a bit of history in the area including the first hospital. It’s the oldest part of the city and it used to be where all the criminals would live. We then went over to Mrs. Macquaries point. Great views and saw her chair. It’s also right next to Garden Island-home of the naval base. Interesting fact-all Australian naval ships have a red kangaroo on them somewhere. We then went to Bondi Beach-it was quite pretty and fairly busy considering it’s mid-winter there. Then we drove around for more city views and into the suburbs. King’s Cross (Red Light district), Double Bay (the driver said it was known as “Double Pay”), Rose Bay and Vaucluse. We saw Hyde Park as well as the shopping and financial districts. We also saw Paddington. Then it was off to the Opera House for a tour. The tour was really interesting and we went into the concert hall, where we were treated to the end of a rehearsal and I took a picture I wasn’t supposed to. Oops! I seem to have a knack for that. We walked all around it and I was able to touch the sails-so cool! They are not white like it seems they are from far away. They are almost gray and are self cleaning. The history of how it was built is fascinating.
After that, I went to a restaurant and tried a kangaroo burger. It had a yummy blueberry compote on top. It really wasn’t too far of a stretch from beef-except leaner. I liked it. 4 miles of walking and 10 flights of stairs-whew! Off on the Blue Mountains tour tomorrow. Oh, and I also took a ferry from the Opera House area back to Darling Harbour- from Circular Quay. I love how the city is big on ferry transportation-most people seem to prefer it to taxis.
Early start again! 0700 pickup by Dane (very nice tour guide-truth be told, I think I developed a little crush) for the Blue Mountains tour. We started at Featherdale Wildlife Park. I saw all kinds of birds, fed wallabys from my hand, saw a small kangaroo and got to pet a koala named Noah. I was beside myself with excitement while waiting in line to have my picture taken with Noah. I saw emus, wombats, tazmanian devils and some owls. It was quite an adventure! We then went to the Blue Mountain National Park. We saw Lincoln Rock which has a lookout on the Jameson Valley. There is a natural blue haze in the air because of all the eucalyptus oil in the air. We then went to Katooma Falls lookout-saw Three Sisters and the steepest incline railway. There was also a beautiful waterfall called Bridal Veils, and it was so windy, that the water was being swept off to the side of its normal course. We then went to lunch at the Boiler Room-part of a hydro therapy hotel. (Majestic) We also went to a couple of other lookouts including Govetts Leap. We even had some champagne while we were there. We then went over to the Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens-very pretty. Then it was back to Sydney by way of Bells Line of Road. On the way back, traffic out of the city was SO backed up! We also went across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Then, it was back to my hotel-got dinner and then crashed.
It has been a rainy spring and summer in Maine. I don’t particularly mind especially considering the drought we had last year. But, it has put a halt to some of the things I do enjoy outside. As I have said many times, summer in Maine is my favorite. I so look forward to it every year and it always goes by in such a short amount of time. I have only been swimming, hiking, doing Trail magic and a variety of other things a few times and those are the things I love to do most. But, I am coming to the close of my current assignment and it looks like I won’t be staying in Maine for the next one. I am hoping for New England, but the life of a traveler is so unpredictable, one of the strengths I need is to be able to go with the flow. Some days I am good at the waiting game and others I am not, just like anyone else. I seem to be more anxious this time around because I am about to leave for a trip out of the country (that’s for a later post) and I will not have the easy access to making calls and what not. I know things will work out and I could have much worse problems; it is just me needing to keep moving forward.
Hiking season is here again…finally! I may not get excited about it the way other people do because even though I like hiking, I love helping hikers more. Hiking for me is a process that has involved a lot of mental challenges. For example, I do not like to hike with other people; I am self-conscious about my abilities (or lack thereof) and have no desire to impede the progress of others. I am working on that. However, I do love doing Trail Magic. For those that are unfamiliar with the term, it can be any form of help that you provide for a hiker; be it a ride, a hot shower, a meal, a place to stay or even something as simple as water to refill their bottle that they don’t have to filter. Anything that makes their journey a little easier. My personal favorite is to provide water, soda, fruit and other snacks. I enjoy socializing and hearing the stories of people. Trails are great equalizers and that is one of the best things about hiking. You don’t know anyone’s story until they tell it.
I recently went to Vermont for the weekend to visit my old stomping grounds from when I had an assignment there. I missed the feel of the place and missed the Appalachian Trail. On my way into town, I stopped at the trail crossing, not expecting to find anyone there in need of assistance. I hadn’t been there more than 2 minutes and I found someone who needed a ride. I was more than happy to provide it. I know, giving strangers a ride? Hikers are different; the trail is a place that can restore your faith in humanity if you let it in. I gave her a ride and showed her around town and she was tickled pink. She asked me a couple of times if she could pay me, which I would never accept. I just asked her to pay it forward.
It truly makes me happy to help other people. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I went into healthcare. Kindness is something that makes me feel good. It fills my heart and I think makes me a better person. I am fortunate that I am able to do this and there was a point in my life when I could just barely afford to take care of myself. I think that is a driving force in my need to help people. I have felt that and don’t wish it on others. My reasons are simple and there are many people who are surprised or want to complicate it. But, plain and simple, it brings me joy to help people, so why would I stop?