~ the art of meandering around the world in a leisurely manner, lingering in a place & discovering, layer by layer, its unique character – its essence – while, at the same time, discovering one’s inner self ~
It is traveling intentionally and with awareness, and then distilling the experience into creative expression.
In this blog, I seek to mingle travel and art. I hope to inspire curious explorers of the world to make an art of wandering, and then turn that wandering into art. My focus is on people in later life, usually 50+ folks who have time and money to travel and want to explore their creative selves in the process.
~ what I hope to do here ~
This blog will cover all my travels going forward, and may consolidate the high points of some of my earlier travels. I hope to include posts about:
travel imaginings – what inspires our destination choices;
immersion in a destination BEFORE embarking on a journey;
the intentional experience of a destination – by walking, bicycling or driving AND observing; sampling and writing about local food; keeping a journal; taking photographs; sketching or painting; writing poems, travel essays or short stories; creating collages; or expressing creative urges in otherwise meaningful ways;
creative expression, through blogging or other means, about a destination upon return.
I plan to offer challenges to my readers: poetry challenges, photography challenges, writing (fiction and non-fiction) challenges, and other artistic challenges. The challenges will vary according to my whim. I’ll encourage fellow wanderers to set intentions before each trip – intentions to notice something new, to define what’s iconic about a place, to describe a place using the five senses, to try a new activity or local food, to write a poem or a prosaic stream of consciousness – to create something, anything that ignites your soul.
I’ve only posted one piece (plus several pages) on it so far, but more will come shortly. I hope you’ll follow me there. As for my set of 16 blogs (yes, it’s been a little crazy and just a bit cumbersome!), all of them will remain online but are now closed books.
The only other blog I’ll continue to post on is this one: nomad, interrupted. Here, I’ll continue to post monthly cocktail hours and maybe some local outings. I may include bits of Americana. But everything about travel will now be consolidated on my new blog.
Wednesday, February 28: Welcome to our February cocktail hour! Please, come in out of the cold and keep me company. This month I can offer you a special Mardi Gras Blackberry Basil Margarita, as our ice maker is now operational. I know it’s already Lent, so for those of you who honorably practice your faith, I can also offer sodas or seltzer water of various flavors.
I hope February has been good to you so far. February has never been my favorite month, except for Valentine’s day, which never quite lives up to the hype, and my husband’s birthday on the 26th. I’m happy it’s a short month. I always think of it as a grey and brown month, and my pictures below will confirm that view. It also is a month of preparation for the year. Since the outdoors is so uninviting, I tend to stay in a lot, reading and embellishing my dreams.
Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you learned anything new, taken any classes or just kept up with the news? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you been planning your adventures for the year? Have you had any winter getaways? Have you sung along with any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you undertaken any new exercise routines?
Preparing for upcoming travels
I’m enjoying immersing myself in my upcoming journeys. This coming weekend, Mike and I will visit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Only a four-hour drive from here, it’s pathetic that I’ve never been. For many years, I’ve overlooked American cities as worthy travel destinations. Now, I keep adding them to my travel plans. Why not take advantage of places closer to home? When I was 23, I took a three-month cross-country trip around the USA and I figured I’d been there, done that. I guess I’ve taken my country for granted.
After all my travels abroad, and after coming to appreciate all the nuances of different cultures and countries, I can more fully appreciate the variations in American sub-cultures and American places. Even within our small towns and our national and state parks, treasures are waiting to be unveiled.
To prepare, I’ve read two novels and one memoir featuring the city, as well as Moon Handbooks Pennsylvania – the part about Pittsburgh. Here are the three books I’ve read that feature Pittsburgh:
These books have fueled my imagination and will surely add depth to my visit. We also watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which takes place in the city. The movie inspires me to stand up through the sunroof of our car as we drive through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. 🙂
I created a playlist on Spotify for the trip as well. Of course, one must have a playlist when taking an American Road Trip! Here are my Pittsburgh Tunes.
I’ve now postponed my Four Corners Road Trip to May, as parts of Mesa Verde National Park don’t open until May 20. Because of this, I’m working backwards from there, and have plotted out much of my trip, beginning my drive from Virginia on May 1 with a planned arrival in Denver on the evening of May 3 after three 8-hour days of driving. Mike will join me in Denver and will fly back home from Phoenix after 10 days; we’ll part ways in Flagstaff, and unless my sister decides to join me, I’ll be doing the rest alone. I have a long reading list around this area.
Finally, I’ve started preparing for walking the Camino de Santiago in September. I found out that the The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela only swings the large incense burners on certain days. I had mistakenly thought they did it every day. As I really want to be there for the pilgrim’s service where they swing the incense, I will aim to arrive there for the November 1 service on All Saints Day. This month, I’ve continued reading the three books I mentioned last month. I’ve also increased my walking distances and started going to the gym.
To immerse myself in the Camino experience, I shared Spanish tapas with pilgrims and wanna-be pilgrims at a potluck for American Pilgrims on the Camino in early February. This month, I walked 40 miles in my Keen Targhee hiking boots, 23 miles in Brooks Ghost running shoes, and 4 miles in Merrill trail runners, in an attempt to break in boots/shoes and decide which ones to wear on the Camino.
I hiked 4 miles on the Vienna bike trail.
It was a gloomy day when I joined the Mid-Atlantic Hiking group on the Gold Mine Area Trails and Great Falls, but at least it didn’t rain. I somehow twisted my knee on this 7.2 mile hike, which got me a little worried. To help build strength in that knee and in my shoulders, I’ve been to the gym twice a week for weight-lifting and doing calisthenics recommended by my son, Alex, who does calisthenics coaching part-time.
I also hiked 4.7 miles at Bull Run Mountains State Natural Area Preserve with the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group and sipped wines at the Winery at La Grange afterward. We found an old cemetery on that hike.
On another miserable Saturday, I slogged 6.4 miles through mud and rain at Fraser Preserve and had coffee after with Susan, a Camino pilgrim I met on an earlier hike. We were covered in mud and our hair was plastered to our heads!
delectable treats, movies and celebrations
I’ve been whipping up experimental dishes, including a simple pasta with broccoli rabe. Mike and I ate Thai food at Kobkun Fine Thai Cuisine. We celebrated Valentine’s Day with sushi, sake and Sapporo at Yoko Sushi. I saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for the second time, since Mike didn’t see it with me the first time I saw it. After, we enjoyed Malai Kofta at Curry Mantra. I learned more about the complicated Palestinian situation from the movie The Insult, where a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian get into a vicious court case over an insult. After the movie, we tried a new restaurant, Havabite Eatery, where I scarfed down a white pizza. We shared blackened swordfish tacos and avocado super toast at Earls Tyson’s Corner for a mid-week treat.
Challenges… and life goes on
We stood by helplessly as my youngest son, feeling frustrated by his close friend’s emotional breakdown and the toxic environment at his job, walked out of work without telling his boss he was leaving. A week later, he announced he was taking off to live the life of freedom, or the “hero’s journey,” he envisions – a life where he will “sign no leases, fill out no resumes, work cash jobs, and treat each day as a holy-day.” I gently suggested that if it’s his philosophy to live that way, he should be a man and stop expecting his parents to bail him out, and he should not expect to come back home except to visit on holidays. That’s when he said, “Every day is a holy-day!” Oh dear. There are some things I will never understand, but I know he’s going to live his life how he sees fit, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. All I can do is choose how I will respond to what he does. As it was, we parted on good terms, and I wished him the best and told him I love him. I’m working on letting it all go.
Though feeling gobsmacked by our son’s surprise departure, we celebrated Mike’s 64th birthday by having dinner of Zucchini Babycorn Jalfrezi and Gobi Tak a Tin at Masala Art and then seeing Hold These Truths at Arena Stage, about Japanese-American Gordon Hirabayashi’s fight against the US government’s orders to forcibly remove and mass incarcerate all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast during WWII. What an appropriate theme for today’s political environment, where immigrants are being excised daily from our society.
I finished reading seven more books (14 total for the year), especially loving: The English Major by Jim Harrison and the audiobook of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. I also finished reading The Girl in the Moon Circle by Sia Figiel for an A-Z book group that is reading, in alphabetical order, books from all the countries of the world. Our group mistakenly thought the book was about American Samoa, but it’s actually about Samoa, to the west of American Samoa. 🙂
I’ve also been slowly working on posts about my travels, finally finishing up my time in Japan (catbird in japan); I’m getting close to finishing with Prague (in search of a thousand cafes). I’m planning to start a new blog in March, unconnected to any of my other blogs, which will encompass all things travel: inspiration, making an art of travel, and creating art from travel. I hope you’ll join me there when I start it. Once the blog is live, I’ll stop posting on all my other blogs except this one, where I’ll continue to share things not related to travel.
I hope all is well for you and I look forward to hearing what’s going on with you! I wish you a happy March!:-)
“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”
– C.S. Lewis
Twenty-seventeen. I like the sound of it. Three-hundred-sixty-five days, each offering possibilities. Or at least invitations to take small steps here and there.
“The days are long, but the years are short.” ~ Gretchen Rubin
I’m a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, or, better yet, Intentions. I always have been, although my success at achieving them is about as good as anyone else’s. Still. I love to dream. If the day ever comes when I stop dreaming, I might as well call it quits.
I have a long list of resolutions that cover a wide array of categories: education, health & fitness, finances, household projects, spiritual & cultural growth. I use the same categories every year, written in a large bound periwinkle-colored book full of blank pages. At the beginning of each new year, I write: Cathy’s 2017 Resolutions (or whatever year it is) and then I tape a copy of 2017 Yearly Horoscope: Scorpio (which rarely holds any truth in its predictions). At the end of each year, I evaluate what I did and didn’t do (no rewards or punishments necessary), clip together the pages of the old year, and close it out. It’s my method, and I enjoy the process. I love the bulk of those years of resolutions, some met and some not. My periwinkle book of wishes and dreams.
It has taken me a long time in life to figure out what’s most important to me, but now that I know what lights my fire, my intention for twenty-seventeen is to focus on the things I love, to expand on them and to delve deeper, to let the full expression of them bloom.
These are the things that set my heart on fire: inspirational and creative travel, writing & blogging, photography, walking (urban and nature hiking) and reading. I’ve also been toying with the idea of entrepreneurship as opposed to career-seeking in a world that seems infused with age discrimination.
Because I’m interested in so many things and I have so many ideas, because there are so many choices, I often feel overwhelmed; in fact, I feel utterly swamped. When I read this passage from Robert Clark’s Love Among the Ruins (p. 162-3), I recognized myself in Jane:
Jane, “having resigned herself to the fact that a Ph.D. was not in the cards … for a personality, a character formation, that, truth to be told, has felt itself ‘swamped’ since perhaps the age of four — no, longer still, since before she seemingly alone rowed herself ashore and landed in this life.
“It is, Jane must admit, a curious thing to be so overwhelmed by obligations and duties — to have unfinished chores hugging at her hem while lined up behind them is the impending sense that some fundamental necessity has been completely overlooked — but also to experience moments of terribly clarity in which she sees that she is not busy, that in fact she is doing nothing. And that ‘nothing’ is perhaps the substance which swamps her, the flood that threatens to sink her altogether. For it is not merely nothing in the sense of a moment of inactivity, of respite or pause. Nor is it the nothing of ‘nothing in particular,’ neither this nor that. It is, Jane sees when she looks up to see it hovering just above and in front of her, her thumb holding a place in a magazine article whose subject she has already forgotten, the index finger of the other hand clawing in the near-spent cigarette pack, ‘nothing at all.’ It is the kind of nothing that is a force in its own right, that precludes all the possible somethings one might try to put in its place; that marks the fact of everything one is not doing and, looming stupidly, heavily like humidity, renders starting impossible.”
How I love it when I read a book of literary fiction (which I read to the near exclusion of anything else) and recognize myself.
The nothing that I’m doing, that nothing that has a life of its own, is so physically oppressive that starting something, anything, becomes a force to be reckoned with. How does one start something when “all the possible somethings” remind me every moment of what I’m NOT doing? I often feel smothered by all those possibilities, and rendered inactive.
Yet. I do continue to search. To seek. A good friend of mine once admitted to admiring me for always searching. For what, he didn’t know. Neither do I. But I do believe it is important to keep searching, even if you don’t know what for.
In the excellent memoir-writing book, Writing Life Stories, teacher Bill Roorbach asks one of his 85-year-old students, coincidentally named Jane:
“Jane, tell us, what’s the secret of life?”
Jane smiled benignly, forgiving me my sardonic nature, tilted her head, and said without the slightest pause: “Searching.”
An indignant Chuck (one of the other students) said, “Not finding?”
“No, no, no,” Jane said emphatically, letting her beatific smile spread, “Searching.”
Searching is what keeps us alive, gives us hope, keeps us moving along, step by step, through our lives.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” ~ Vincent van Gogh
In the areas of life that excite me, here are my intentions for the year ahead:
Reading: I intend to bask in my love of reading, using Goodreads extensively, adding to my to-read list and writing reviews of every book I read. My goal is to read 40 books in different areas: literary fiction, memoir, poetry, short stories and travel memoir; books on the craft of memoir, travel and fiction writing: and inspirational books on creativity. Last year, my goals was to read 35 books and I achieved that goal. I was enriched by every page I read. 🙂
Photography: I intend to read books on photography, push myself to play more with my camera, possibly take a photography workshop, and challenge myself to be more creative. I will try to participate in several photo challenges on WordPress. I would also like to get and learn a new photo processing software.
Walking (urban and nature hiking): I intend to continue my 3-mile walks 4x/week, but also to take local urban hikes through cities such as Washington, Philadelphia, and Richmond and natural hikes in the Shenandoah mountains or elsewhere on the East Coast. I also hope to do three official 10K walks this year. Of course, I walk a lot whenever I travel abroad because I believe it is the best way to fully experience any destination. I also have a dream of walking the Camino de Santiago in the fall, possibly September-October. If I do it, I want to do the whole thing, The French Way, all 780 km of it. I hope I can swing it this year.
As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life. ~ Buddha
Inspirational and creative travel: I intend to travel more intentionally this year, and to make something creative from my travels. My plan for this spring is to try to volunteer at a bed & breakfast in Croatia for a week, travel solo in Croatia, and then meet Mike, where we will explore Hungary and Czech Republic, focusing on Budapest and Prague. In the fall, I hope to be able to walk the Camino de Santiago.
Writing & blogging: I’d like to stop being lazy in my travel writing and blogging and to push myself to be more creative and inspirational. I intend to travel more intentionally and observantly, keeping a detailed travel journal and taking more creative photos. I hope to make something from my travels, whether the stuff of memoir or fiction, poetry or storytelling photography.
As for my fiction and memoir writing, I’d like to self-publish my novel and finish my memoir by year-end. In addition, I plan to take classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I’ve already signed up for three classes: How to Build Complex Characters, Building Better Characters, and Character Building. I know, they all sound alike, don’t they? However, they each have a slightly different focus and are taught by different teachers. I’m interested in this subject because I want to create characters to take with me to Croatia and on my other travels. I’m also interested in creating a course on how to create characters and bringing that character to …..(fill in the blank with a foreign country name).
Entrepreneurship/Career: Finally, there is the issue of work. I’ve been reading a book by Gail Sheehy called Sex and the Seasoned Woman. I started this book years ago, but I finally finished it this year. What I found most interesting were the stories of older women who decided to reinvent their lives and bring their passions into fruition. I found a story about Elaine, who started out as a schoolteacher, to be funny and inspirational (p. 232-235):
Elaine’s husband asked her: “What are you passionate about?”
“Books,” she said. “This may be a really dumb idea, but I’ve always wanted to be a bookseller.” Now she is the proprietor of a large bookstore in California. Later, her husband asked her again if there were anything she was missing in life.
“Teaching,” she admitted. “This may be a really dumb idea, but what if we started a conference for travel writers?” Now their bookstore has expanded into a small university of sorts.
Elaine says “But these things didn’t start as smart business ideas.” They started with Elaine saying to her husband, “This is probably a dumb idea, but….”
So, THIS is probably a dumb idea, but I hope to start a new blog where I don my teaching hat and write posts about how to immerse oneself more creatively and intentionally in travel, how to approach travel with awe and with an eye to inspiring creativity in oneself.
I’m hoping that eventually this will lead to me offering creative travel retreats. Slowly, slowly. As a teacher, writer, and traveler, I know I am perfectly capable of doing this. Yet. And of course, there is always a YET! I’ve never been an entrepreneur before, so I know I will have a steep learning curve. I intend to climb that curve, even if it involves backsliding down that slope as I learn. I will need confidence and courage.
In that vein, I’ve written a lot of notes about defining my business and my market, signed up for a course called Starting Your Own Business, and have subscribed to Entrepreneur magazine. Now I need to come up with a name!
I will reveal more about my ideas for this business on a new blog at some point soon, I hope. I have lots of ideas. 🙂
As for my ESL career, I will cut back on my job applications, but I will periodically apply to jobs abroad or at home. My heart isn’t really in the work itself, except for the travel opportunities offered. If I get a job, it may waylay my aforementioned plans, but I’m open to any adventure the world throws my way! 🙂
I hope everyone continues to dream and grow in twenty-seventeen, and I hope all your wishes come true. 🙂
(All photos were taken on urban hikes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 29-30, 2016)
Friday, December 30: This morning, we have two goals before we need to return home to Virginia: 1) walk the south Philadelphia mural walk and 2) visit the Magic Gardens. We don’t have time today to do the north mural walk; that will have to wait for another visit.
Mural Arts Philadelphia was established in 1984 as a Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, encouraging graffiti writers to redirect their efforts into constructive public arts projects. According to the website, the “collective mural-making process proves to be a powerful tool for generating dialogue, building relationships, empowering communities, and sparking economic revitalization.”
The work of the project serves a “larger movement that values equity, fairness and progress across all of society.”
“Women in Progress,” by artists Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston, depicts the progress made in women’s rights.
Kenny Scharf is known for “using images of cartoons from his childhood, as well as inventing sometimes wild designs inspired by graffiti and club culture” (Philly Mag).
HOW and NOSM are twin brother graffiti artists born in Spain, who grew up in Germany and currently reside in New York, according to the Mural Arts website.
In a mural by Gaia, Philadelphia architect and urban planner Edmund Bacon gazes down at those traveling the streets of the city that he helped so much to shape. The use of light colors such as white and grey help the portrait to stand out for blocks.
I’m not sure what this one is, but it doesn’t seem to be on the official Mural Walk. Today, some earth movers are doing some heavy-duty digging in the adjacent parking lot.
“Building the City” by Michael Webb shows the builders and planners of the city.
Some of Philadelphia’s urban art is not listed as part of the Mural Arts program, such as this one shown below. With over 3,000 murals, the city is known as the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.
I don’t know that the building shown below has actual murals or simply panels hanging on it. There is one mural listed at this location on our mural mile walk map, but this doesn’t look much like the other murals we’ve seen.
My favorite of all the murals we see today is “Garden of Delight” by artist David Guinn. The artist returned to the neighborhood where he grew up to create this lush mural overlooking a community garden. “Two trees in the center lean into each other, symbolic of an embrace. The garden spills out from the space between them. This is to symbolize the spirit of community gardens and the people who work together to nurture these gardens,” according to Mural Arts Philadelphia.
“Pride and Progress” by Ann Northrup shows today’s unconventional families. According to Mural Arts Philadelphia, “the artwork occupies the entire west wall of the William Way Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community center in Philadelphia. The 55’x165′ mural depicts a gay pride festival in the midst of nearby landmarks, including the Drake Hotel.”
“Taste of Summer” by Ann Northrup is set in an idealized landscape – a combination of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and “Perugia, Italy. The people are outdoors on a terrace eating, drinking, arguing, flirting, climbing trees, and sleeping. There is an element of indulgent comedy, within a garden of earthly delights.”
The mural is on the side of Vetri Ristorante, owned by James Beard award-winning Chef Marc Vetri.
In “Spring,” David Guinn “designed the mural to connect the trees on either side of the wall, on Pine Street and in the backyard of the house, as if there were a park in front of the wall rather than a parking lot. The artist wanted to paint the trees crisply and in detail but at the same time have a soft and organic feel. He was inspired by the idea of making soft forms out of discreet, hard-edged blocks of color.” (Mural Arts Philadelphia)
David McShane’s “Mural at Dirty Franks,” a local watering hole, is painted with pictures of people named, or partially named, Frank.
“Theater of Life” by Meg Saligman is about the many roles we play in our lives that make up who we are.
“Gimme Shelter” by David Guinn was sponsored by the City of Philadelphia, Morris Animal Refuge, and individual donors.
One of the most iconic of the city’s murals, “Philadelphia Muses” explores today’s diverse artistic disciplines. “It features newly imagined, contemporary muses of the arts taking part in a gigantic game of artistic vision,” according to artist Meg Saligman.
We end our walk on South Street at the fascinating Magic Gardens, Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic art environment. I’ll write about this magical place in another post. 🙂
Friday, March 25: After picking up Louise at the zoo, we drive to Bricktown, an area east of the downtown business district of Oklahoma City that served as the city’s first warehouse and distribution district. It was founded on the heels of the Land Run of 1889 and it served as the central hub of the state and the country.
Up until the 1950s, it housed furniture and hardware stores, a biscuit company, cotton producers, wholesale grocers, a dairy, and even a school. After the area declined in the 1960s and 70s, residents began to move out of the city and buildings were torn down until the area was almost vacant.
After decades of decline, investors and other forward-thinkers started to buy and renovate buildings and recruited retail, restaurants, and attractions.
Beginning in 1993, Bricktown added a baseball stadium, a water canal with water taxis, river improvements, and a nearby sports and concert arena.
Now a thriving urban entertainment district, Bricktown is home to more than 45 restaurants, many bars, clubs, and retail shops, as well as family friendly attractions, museums and galleries (Welcome to Bricktown: History).
We’re famished after our morning at the Cowboy Museum, so we stop for a late lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen. By now it’s nearly 2:00, and we realize we’re running out of time to do all the things we hoped to do today.
I order a plate of Veggie Primavera. 🙂
At lunch, we debate about what to do next. We’ve barely explored Bricktown, but first and foremost, we want to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. As it’s about 2:40 by the time we finish lunch, and we have a Mexican dinner at Rosie’s son’s house tonight at 6:30, our time is limited. We decide we have to forego further exploration of Bricktown so we can see the museum.
Somehow the GPS on our phones shows us the museum is right around the corner from Bricktown, but when we arrive at what is shown to be the destination, it’s not there. We ask a passerby and find it’s still a number of blocks away. We begin our urban hike, finding some interesting sights along the way.
Finally, we arrive at the museum. Stay tuned for an emotional experience at this museum, marking the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh.