I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Traveling and remembering

Lake Padden last Thursday

It was such a lovely day last Thursday, and this is one of my favorite pictures of the lake that I captured, as we walked around it for one loop. We'd already walked almost four miles on the back trails, but we wanted to get a bit more distance, since Mel is always trying to improve on her exercise levels. Me, I was just happy to have covered more than six miles and kept up with her the whole time. When she hikes with our friend Peggy, Mel says she has to hustle to keep up. I'm glad I can give her a more relaxed regimen. I just can't go that fast, but I do my best.

Just two more days before I catch that late-night flight to Florida to visit my family and celebrate our two big birthdays. Yesterday was my sister Fia's sixtieth (she might already have arrived there with her husband Russ). And my own birthday is in just over a week. Twenty years between the oldest and the youngest. Our dear sister PJ died in 2014, so there will be five of us siblings getting together for the first time since she died. My brother Buz will be driving to Florida on Tuesday and staying until the following Sunday. I just hope we all make it there without mishap.
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. —John Steinbeck

 This past week I learned of the death of a dear friend in Colorado. Maria and I worked together for decades at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and she was more than just a co-worker but also a good friend. She was my boss for several years, and I learned so much from her about how to craft a good book without the need for errata slips and how to avoid minor mistakes. After she stopped working with Mickey Glantz, I sort of took over her role, without actually taking on the title itself. I ended up traveling all over the world with Mickey, and although I loved that period of my life, I am also a bit startled at how much of it I have forgotten.

I found her book on my shelf, which she wrote in 2009, Made in Hungary: A Life Forged by History. I pulled it out and re-read several chapters, remembering her telling me of some of her past recollections. But most of it surprised me. I never knew she was Jewish and escaped the Holocaust, because she kept her personal struggles to herself. I knew that she had a son whom she doted on, Christopher, and over the years I watched him grow up and go off to college. Her mother lived by herself until Maria had to move her to a nursing home. After a long struggle, Maria divorced her husband of 30 years and ended up involved with her closest friend, Mary. They were together from the mid-2000s until her death on November 9th. 

I found Maria's obituary in the local Boulder newspaper and realized how much of her life, after retiring from her job, she spent volunteering for various causes. She had been a member of the Boulder Quaker Meeting for years, and she took me there a time or two. But what I most miss about her were the amazing Hungarian dishes she introduced me to. Every time there was an event that gave her a chance to bring in something to share, she would bring a delightful sweet treat from her kitchen. I found this picture of her online, and it reminded me so much of the many times we shared food together.

Lovely Maria

I'm not sure what she is eating here, but I suspect it was something she created. All that powdered sugar, and probably lots of layers of poppyseed filling, that's what I remember the most. She spoke four languages fluently and, in her words, none without an accent. She was an exceptionally kind and wonderful person whom I was privileged to know. I will miss her presence in the world. Every year on her birthday (April 24), I would send her an email to wish her a good year ahead, and every year on my birthday (December 1), she would do the same. Once or twice we used FaceTime to communicate, but it wasn't our smiling faces and laughter I remember, it's the sweet kindness that emanated from her across the miles.

I kind of wondered if she was doing well, since last April she didn't respond to my email, which she always did in past years. But I didn't think much about it. This year will be the first in many that I will not hear from her. Maybe she will visit me in a dream, who knows? More and more of my dear friends are passing from this realm, which is to be expected, I guess, as we age and all move inevitably towards our own demise. The days pass without much change, and the years accumulate, but sometimes we are reminded of who and what we are, and how little time is left in our own journeys. Taking a few moments to reflect on our own lives, and those we love both here and now, and those who have moved into the next world, is essential.

I will be writing this post from my sister's home in Florida this time next week, and I'll be (hopefully) surrounded by my siblings and their families, with more memories being made. (During the day, that is: I cannot write well while in a crowd.) There will be one sibling who will be there in our conversations but missing from the festivities, my sister PJ. Although I am definitely not looking forward to the travel both there and back, I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone once again.

And it's another Sunday, with a post being forged while sitting in my bed with my dear partner sleeping quietly next to me, the last dregs of tea gone from my cup, and another frigid but sunny day ahead. On Tuesday, my travel day, the rain returns after a long break. I'll be warm and safe inside the shuttle bus, then the airport, and finally the airplane. I have lots of packing and considering what to take and what to leave between now and then, but it is beginning to look like an adventure!

Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things and hope you have a safe week ahead. Don't forget to be grateful for all that we share, because I certainly will not forget. You are precious and very special. Be well, dear virtual family.


ApacheDug said...

DJan, if you lived nearby I think I'd be paying you a visit right now just to deliver a hug. I really do mean that, this was a special read. I'm very sorry about your sibling PJ, I either didn't know of her passing or had somehow forgotten. Your tribute to your old friend Maria, what a sweet impressive person this was as was your words. We should all be so lucky to know someone like this or be memorialized in your words.

gigi-hawaii said...

Oh, I am so sorry that Maria passed away. She sounds like a dear and special friend. Enjoy your stay in Florida. Take lots of pictures.

Friko said...

How lovely to be able to read your gentle thoughts again.
I am sorry that you have lost another friend; you are right, of course, little by little we will move on, in ever smaller circles.
We must indeed be grateful for everything we have.
Wishing you a safe journey and happy times with your family.

Marie Smith said...

I am excited for you with this coming adventure, Jan. May it be everything you could wish for. Safe travels my friend! Take care!

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. That you stayed in touch shows how much you meant to each other. We don't let go of the special ones. Hope she does visit you in a dream.
You really have a big time ahead of you with enjoying your siblings, Thanksgiving and celebrating birthdays--Happy Birthday by the way.
Hoping you have a safe and non-eventful flight and a delightful visit. Take pictures.

John's Island said...

I just don’t think I can write anything better than ApacheDug did in his comment above. So, I hope he won’t object to my asking you to read it one more time. It really is perfect!

Linda Reeder said...

It's hard to lose old friends. Fortunately they live on in our memories.
I am excited for you and your upcoming trip to rejoin with your siblings. I startlingly realized that this is finally Thanksgiving week. I will be busy, but I will be pacing myself and asking for help. And I will think of you, dear friend.

Elephant's Child said...

Yet another beautiful inspiring post. Many, many thanks. Again.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Travel safely, wear your mask and take Lysol hand wipes along! AND have a wonderful time with your siblings!! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

I agree another wonderful inspiring post. So sad to lose a good friend. I'll be making the opposite trip from warm and sunny Florida back home to the cold temps in Philadelphia to see my kids and family. Since we are snow birds, I am going to my other home and will have lots of warm clothing that I left there from winters past. Safe travels...and Happy Thanksgiving . I hope you enjoy this special time with your siblings.

Rita said...

It is so sad to lose good old friends. I have lost a few lately the past few years and I am only 71, so there are more to come, I know. Unless I beat them to it--lol!
I hope you have an uneventful trip and very eventful, chock full of memories visit with your siblings. :)

Anvilcloud said...

I will wish you Happy Trails came Tuesday. It will be interesting to read what you have to write next week.

Galen Pearl said...

So sorry about your friend. That was a lovely tribute. And happy holidays! I look forward to photos and travel posts during your trip.

Gigi said...

I am so very sorry to hear that you lost someone so dear to you. Sending you love and hugs.

Have a safe trip to Florida and back. I know you will enjoy the time spent with family.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy birthday!

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, so sorry about the loss of your dear friend. I am older than you and I, too, have lost so many dear ones. Have a wonderful time with your siblings. This is a special time for you all. I remember when my siblings were all here and the joy we had together. Now it is my sister, Gay, and me. Have a safe journey.

Rian said...

We are at that age where losing friends is something we have to accept. But it is hard... and they remain forever in our heart and memories. I lost a dear friend a while back. With me a simple thing like a kitchen utensil or a recipe she gave me brings back a flood of memories of our weekly teas or walks in the park. I'm sorry about your friend, DJan, but it seems like you also have some wonderful memories. (I do hope she visits you in dreams)

And you're about to make more memories this week with your family in Florida. I pray you have a safe trip there and back and that you will bring back lots of stories to share with us! Happy Thanksgiving!

Red said...

You had a very good friend and paid a very meaningful tribute to her. Yes, we look around and many of the people we were with are gone.

Terra said...

Enjoy your time with your siblings, our time on earth is precious. I have long thought that even a life of 100 years is short. I know you are missing your kind and talented friend. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.