Thursday, December 31, 2015


        When I was younger and looking ahead to the future, the year 2000 seemed so far away. It does once again, though now in retrospect. When I foxhunted with the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club there was an "elderly" 69 year-old lady who kept up with the younger folk, galloping and jumping. I decided back then that I wanted to be like her. Other older adults whom I cared for as a nurse, who didn't exercise, who didn't seem to care for themselves, perplexed me.

       In the last few years I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and--far off from 69--I am unable to foxhunt anymore. Cantering a horse can be painful, much less galloping and jumping, and so  along with golf and skiing, hunting is added to the "I used to..." list. It's really easy to become self-absorbed and sad about it. When the feeling hits hard I watch Go-Pro videos of others' foxhunts. But one great thing about having children is that we truly can live vicariously through them.

       I am doing that right now as I write, warm and dry in a small ski lodge. Snow Creek must be the tiniest ski resort anywhere with three runs and a vertical drop of, like, 300 feet. But we're talking the Kansas/Missouri border! So it is a wonderland, a paradise for kids and mid-westerners who haven't the time nor means to travel farther. I might have once joked that more time is spent riding the lifts, with only about 30 seconds to ski down to the bottom of the longest slope, but how misplaced that humor would have been. I'm looking up now as people schuss and pizza and jump and wipe-out and laugh. There is challenge and there is joy on this hill. 

       I just met a beautiful couple in their seventies and eighties. There was a twinge of sadness: I had wanted to be like them. But the feeling was quickly replaced when I saw their joy in life. It made me joyful, too. They let me take their photo.

       As the morning goes on I've watched Stephania (who is visiting again from Columbia!), Gus, and two of my friend's girls take lessons and hit the slopes. 

       The tentative, jerky first forays have transitioned into more courageous, smooth runs. And wipe-outs. Gus is snowboarding for the first time. He just came back from the longest run at the slopes. While brushing snow off his helmet and from inside his coat, he told me with a huge smile about how he fell, rolled and landed back on his feet to continue down the hill. I remember well. And I've let loose the feelings of yearning to be right there with them. Watching is good. Listening to their first-hand accounts is exciting.

       Bruce likes to say, "Enough is a feast." It is enough to watch, to remember, to take part even through the window, in their fun and excitement. And so, today I participate in a feast...of abandon and the joy of living vicariously.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


       We watched the movie, Midnight in Paris, and I was struck with the realization that the nostalgic desire for a bygone era is not limited to modern people. The main character, who has had a chance to travel back in time, meets a lady who longs for an even earlier age. 

       In November my daughters and I had a lovely evening at the World War I Museum in Kansas City. We went to meet and listen to Sir Alastair Bruce, the official historian to the Queen of England and the historical advisor to the popular British series, Downton Abbey. We were so excited; we love history so much, that we were almost giddy to meet Sir Alastair Bruce. He was gracious and kind and best of all, so genuine that one would think he was an old friend. A gentleman, he asked if he could place his hands on our shoulders for a photo. He introduced himself as "Alastair."

       Susanna asked if he would allow her to " the teenager thing and take a selfie?" He graciously and enthusiastically obliged, later answering her tweet as to what a great shot it was!

       What a kind man. His lecture was fascinating and entertaining. My four oldest daughters and I have always loved historical dramas. Perhaps because most Americans have ancestral roots from other countries, we love pieces set in the UK and continental Europe. For example, I love to watch the British mini-series North and South, because my father's family were cotton millers from the Scottish border and Northern England in Carlisle. Alastair Bruce discussed the changes in aristocracy and landholding between the late 1700s through World War I. Due to great taxing of the large, old country houses, many were no longer financially viable and were literally blown up. Thankfully, Highclere Castle and others were preserved. Highclere is the setting for Downton Abbey. Another great house, Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire, is used as Mr. Darcy's Pemberly in the most recent Pride and Prejudice movie. Netflix has some great documentaries on these houses.

       I found myself saying to the Geek Squad guy who came and straightened out our router (they really do visit in little orange and black painted cars) that I must have been meant to live 50 to 100 years earlier. Technology, though miraculous, is frustrating and complicating far too often. To my children's chagrin I really do remember playing outside all day and using my imagination well. I truly did ride my horse, or someone else's, for hours and hours in wind, rain and snow. It was a beautiful childhood. Will my children say that all of the gaming and TV viewing was "beautiful" one day?

       The character from Midnight in Paris does find contentment in the present. He uses his nostalgia of the past to share with a new friend, and to write novels. I am glad that I can share my love of history with my daughters, to sit with a pot of tea and watch a beautifully filmed show. And of course, to write.