My Personal Journey of Evolving


The events that are unfolding across this country, and across the world, have me humbled and sad.

As I have cheered on the activists and protestors who march for Black Lives Matter, I have started to question my own history. I’ve been trying to think about all of the ways that I have failed to be anti-racist. I have spent my life in a white bubble, with virtually no black friends or colleagues, I am struggling to find my way, even as I commit myself to making a difference.

I don’t know what to say, or what to do. But I do have an analogy that is helpful to me, and that might clarify things for my white friends.

This story goes back to my very first days as a public school student. I was a nice girl. I was kind, and friendly and a good student. I followed the teacher’s directions.

When I was in first grade, I was friendly with a boy in my class. He was a boy who went to my church, and who was one of the members of my “advanced reading” group. I don’t remember really thinking much about him. We were smart. We liked to read. He had a constant grin on his face, and I thought that he was “nice.”

We were in the same class again in second grade. We were both good at math, although even at that tender age, I understood that he had a sense for the problems that I didn’t possess. We once again spent time together in the “advanced reading group.” We got to read the really good books.

By the time third grade came around, and I found myself once again in class with this boy, I had begun to notice that he was a little bit “different” from the rest of us. He still came to school every day with that wide grin, but I started to notice that his clothes were slightly out of style. I knew that his parents were a little bit different from the rest of the middle class suburban families who attended our church. His Mom wore clothes and make up that looked to have come from the 1940s. Unlike my own beautiful and stylish Mother, she always seemed, even to me, just a little bit desperate for friends in town.

I remember this boy for his continuing academic excellence, but my mind is even clearer when I remember his enduring cheerfulness and his pleasure at being in school.

He was tall. Taller than the rest of the third graders. He was heavy. He was physically ungainly and awkward.

This made him a target, as did his constant success and his never ending grin.

One of my clearest memories from my elementary school years is the time when our third grade class was asked to complete a “forward roll” in gym class. I remember the echoing sounds of the gym, and the benches that lined the room. I remember the smell of the gym mats and the recessed lights set into the ceiling.

Mostly I remember us taking our turns and doing our “forward rolls.” One after another, our nine year old bodies morphed into pillbugs and we rolled ourselves over.

All of us except one.

The awkward, roundly formed smart boy in my class. My one time friend. He was unable to complete the move. He tried. He tried again. He was alone on the mat in the center of the gym, the increasingly frustrated teacher at his side.

His classmates, including me, sat on the bench along the wall. I remember the snickers. I remember the giggles. I remember the boy on the mat, his cheeks growing ever more flushed, his grin becoming a grimace of desperation.

He never did complete that move.

We went back to our classroom.

And the snickers and giggles and jokes continued.

I remember that day, although it was well over a half century ago. I remember it because I didn’t do one single thing to make the situation better for this boy that had been my friend.

Nobody had ever told me, back in 1964, that bystanders are a part of the problem of bullying. Nobody had ever looked me in the eye and said, “When you see someone being mistreated, you need to stand up and call it out. You need to protect and defend the person being victimized.”

But you know what?

I knew it anyway.

I knew that what I was seeing was wrong. I knew that it was cruel. I watched the open hearted smile on the face of my friend turn into a desperate attempt to find himself a place in our small group.

I knew it, but I never said a single thing to make it any better.

So. I could plausibly tell myself that what happened in my third grade classroom was not my fault. I could tell myself that I was not a bully. I never said a single mean thing. I don’t remember joining in the laughter.

Who, me?

No, I am not a bully. I’m nice.

And for me that is the metaphor that I find relevant today, as I watch the Black Lives Matter protests that are unfolding everywhere.

The easy thing would be to reassure myself that I am most definitely not racist. I have never used that ugly N- word. I have never said anything cruel to a black person, or kept that person out of a job.

But if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I have been a passive, complacent bystander for all of the six decades of my life.

I haven’t stood up for my non-white neighbors and fellow citizens.

I have believed that it was enough not to be mean.

I think back on my first grade pal, the boy who should have grown up to discover some advanced scientific ideas I couldn’t even pronounce. I think about my failure to pull him aside and tell him that a stupid forward roll was pointless and that he was worth a lot more than an “A” in gym.

I took no action. I was a passive observer.

This time around, as my fellow citizens are crying out in desperation, I need to find a way to take some real action. I need to do better. I need to be a better person.

I’ll do it. I’ll do it in the memory of my friend, the boy who was failed by this friend.

How the Virus Has Altered My Soul


“Morning Light on the Books” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Here I sit, on Day 50 of my personal lockdown….quarantine….social isolation. It’s raining outside. Again. It’s nearly May, but it’s still very cold outside my window. The thermometer hasn’t touched 40 degrees yet.

I’m cooking.

I’ve been cooking for 50 days. Baking bread, desserts, bagels and high energy bars for my daughter, who is nursing a 10 pound newborn. Working on my vegetarian recipes in the face of some food shortages and in anticipation of more.

I’m OK. The initial feeling of terror has receded into the dull ache of constant worry. I’m not lonely because I’m with my husband of 43 years and I am able to see my daughter and her children who are part of my isolation crew. My children are healthy. My siblings and my Mom are OK at the moment.

It’s OK. Right now, its OK.

But I feel like someone other than the me I’ve known for 64 years. The sense of the surreal is no longer only about the world around me; now I feel surreal myself.

I can’t read.

I always been an avid reader. I love to read. I was the second grader who got into trouble for sneaking a book into the girl’s bathroom and forgetting to come back to class. I was the young woman who read every day on the subway, relying on an internal sense of time to help me recognize my stops. I was the woman who read a book while I was in labor, and read while I was nursing my kids. I have been known to read while making dinner, stirring the pasta, reading a paragraph, adding some salt, reading another paragraph.

I used to read National Geographic and professional journals while making middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.

I’m a reader.

So why can’t I read now?

I have started three different novels and have abandoned them all. When this all began, I was in the middle of a non-fiction book on American politics. I’ve barely turned a page since then. I have two magazines that I haven’t even opened.

It feels as if my mind has become a dragonfly. I drift across the surface of the lake, touching down briefly here and there, then flitting back into the air.

I can’t concentrate on the characters in my book, because my thoughts are flitting around too fast. Did I feed the dogs? I should start the marinade for the chicken. I hope my sons are holding up, working from home. Do they need anything? Is the baby sleeping better? And I can’t forget to turn the compost.

I’m also a writer. I process everything, usually, through writing. My many political rants, my deep feelings about my family, my days as an elementary school teacher. I write about it all, when the world is in its usual state.

But now that inner flitting dragonfly is keeping me from completing a thought. I have short stories started and set aside. I have articles on politics, history, food, family, all sitting silently in my Google Drive folder.

I don’t feel like me.

Some day, in a future that’s getting harder to imagine, life will feel normal again. We’ll go back to shopping, meeting friends for dinner, going to the beach and the mountains. When that happens, I hope that I can morph back into myself.

The woman who reads and writes and can hold an idea in her head for longer than a minute.

Until then, I think I’ll go online and make a bulk order for black beans and look up some Mexican food recipes.

Living in Suspended Animation


“amber mosquito” by Oregon State University is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

When I was very young, perhaps 11 years old, I went on a field trip to the Museum of Science in Boston. We saw all kinds of exciting wonders there, and I was enthralled.

But the exhibit that stuck in my mind all those years ago was a collection of ancient insects trapped in golden drops of amber.

I remember standing in front of the glass case, looking at the tiny, delicate wings of particularly beautiful little insect. Perfectly preserved and saved in time for us to examine tens of thousands of years after it had been caught.

I tried to imagine what it had been like for that little creature, moving through its everyday life, searching for food. Or simply enjoying a sunny moment on a tree branch. I pictured it sitting still, for just a tiny speck of time, not aware that a drop of tree sap was poised to drop from the branch right above it. Perhaps unaware as that drop first reached its head, still thinking of food or safety or procreation. And then, in the time it took for that tiny being to take a breath, it was encased in sticky sap. Unable to move forward or back, unable to escape.

Left to simply wait as the sap cooled, hardened, aged, turned into the gleaming jewel of amber that a wide eyed little girl was now examining.

For years after that trip, I wondered about that little winged insect. “What if the amber could melt away, and he could be alive again?”

What if.

I thought about that amber the other night, as I stood on my deck, looking out into the silent woods around me. Could something that was held in suspended animation, one wing lifted for flight, ever come back to the life it had known before?

I have now been inside my own house, except for my daily solitary dog walks, for 23 days. I am in suspended animation, like nearly every other human on this little blue gem of a planet.

I didn’t see it coming. Not until it was too late. On the last day that my grandchildren were here with me while their mom was at work, I had no idea that when I sent them home I would not see them again for weeks. I had no idea that we would first be told not to work, then not to socialize, and finally not to leave our homes.

The new coronavirus is our drop of sap. While we were all thinking about our next meal, our work deadlines, or our upcoming social events, it hung there above our heads. It wasn’t until it had dropped down onto us and encased us in its sticky depths that we realized we were caught.

Caught like that ancient fly, unable to escape, unable to save ourselves or those we love.

We are living in a state of suspended animation. All we can do is hope, and pray and trust in something bigger than ourselves.

All we can do is hope that this time the drop of amber will somehow melt, and we will all be free once again to embrace our boring, mundane, gloriously joyful lives.

Ruh, Roh. This Thing Ain’t Going Anywhere.


I don’t mean to be negative or anything, but what the HELL is wrong with humans?

I went out for the first time in a week, just to run two errands. Neither one involved human contact. We used the drive through at the bank, sanitizing as we went. Then I went to a friend’s house, to pick up some fresh eggs that she’d put on her porch for us. I Venmo’d her the money.

My husband and I are careful. We really don’t like the idea of getting pneumonia. We shudder to think of needing a ventilator. Death is not on our schedule this month.

And we love our family. We love my 90 year old Mom, and all three of our kids and their partners. We are crazy about our two grandkids and we’re being extra careful because of the third one who is due to appear any day.

We also respect our neighbors, our doctors, the nurses who will care for our newborn and his Momma.

More importantly, we grasp that whole “no man is an island” thing. It makes sense to us that if tons of people in our town get sick, the whole town will be in trouble. Same for our state. And our country.

Same for the whole damn world. Right?

So when every smart person around the world tells us to self-isolate, we’re doing it.

What the hell is wrong with everyone else out there, huh?

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor has ordered that all “non-essential” businesses must close. Of course, grocery stores and banks are allowed to stay open, along with doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Makes sense to me.

But why is Ocean State Job Lot still open? And Walmart? Why is T-Mobile up and running? And General Nutrition? Really?

Folks, as far as I could see from my short drive around this rural-suburban area, this virus is not going away any time soon.

The liquor store lots were full. The Walmart lot was barely showing a single open space, and it’s the size of two football fields.

I understand that people want to get outside, I do. I understand that sometimes picking up laundry detergent seems vital.

But honest to God, when you pack shoppers into a store, pushing carts around with their hands, touching items and putting them back, coughing, laughing, talking to each other and using the same little bathrooms, then you are hading the victory to the microbes.

I’m back in my safe little sanitized house again now. Hands have been thoroughly washed, eggs have been put away. We’ve settled in now for the duration.

I’m not going back out there again, I tell you. No way.

Because the rest of humanity seems to think this is just a little head cold, and they’re not going to let it stop them from getting a bargain on nail polish.

Image Credit: “August 12, 2015” by osseous is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

I’ve Been Preparing For This Moment My Whole Life


The world is going to hell in a germ-infested handbasket, but Nonni will not dispair.

Nope, not I.

You see, I have been preparing for this terrible global emergency for years. And when I say years, I mean decades.

First of all, Mother Nature was smart enough to gift me with a well developed sense of anxiety. Some have even referred to me as “neurotic.” In the past, this was seen as a defect, but now? Not so much.

Remember the fear that swept the globe as we moved from the 1900s to the 2000s? The so-called Y2K glitch was supposed to impact every computer on earth. We were told that it would shut down the markets, the banks, the food supply, the electric grid.

This Italian Mamma took the threat seriously. That was when I put together my emergency supply shelf. And stocked it with a few little items like 24 boxes of pasta, 3 big bags of rice and enough canned and dried beans to open my own Mexican restaurant. And tomatoes, of course. And lentils!

So when the Coronavirus hit us, I didn’t have to run out and empty the store. I’ve been hoarding for years! I can feed my family for at least a couple of months with just what I have in my kitchen.

I also had the foresight, right after the 2016 election, to expect the collapse of civilization as we know it. That was when I started to gather up extra items that might be needed if a) the North Koreans attacked us or b) Trump got pissed off and turned off all the lights.

Naturally, this means that we have lots of batteries (rechargeable and regular). We have a solar battery charger, a solar radio, a solar lantern, and even both gas and solar generators.

And light sticks, just in case it’s cloudy.

Oh, and I should mention the bleach. Somehow, every time I’ve watched the news since the 2016 vote, I have felt the need to have extra bleach around.

No need for this neurotic old woman to fight over hand sanitizer. Nope. I have enough stuff right on my shelf!

Finally, in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are faced with hours and hours, days and days, possibly weeks or months stuck in our own homes with only our family members for company.

After we’ve re-read our books, colored in all those crazy adult coloring books and beat our husbands at card games, the boredom will surely set it.

We might find ourselves binge watching “Outbreak” or “Pandemic”. People will be overwhelmed with a feeling of uselessness and depression.

Except for me!

Because once again, I planned ahead.

Unlike some people I could name (Mom, sisters Liz and Mary…..) my house could use, shall we say, a little bit of organizing.

Take my kitchen cabinets, for example. Oh, sure, my silverware drawer is organized; I’m not the kind of woman who lets the spoons carry on with the forks.

But I do have an area under my sink that could be declared a federal waste site. What with all the rubber gloves, bleach, vinegar, and eye protection, I can spend a day or six cleaning that place out. I might even find that lost bottle of Scotch.

Or an old sneaker.

And there is one cabinet in here that contains everything from cheese cloth to broken corkscrews. It’s that place where we put the stuff that doesn’t already have a place. You know, like shoelaces, a waffle iron and extra spatulas.

So you see, what once seemed like weaknesses (neurosis, disorganization, anxiety) have turned into Nonni’s superpowers!

When this whole terrible ordeal is finally over, you can feel comfortable coming to my house for a delicious dinner of lentil soup, served in a clean, organized house.

There. Don’t you feel better now?

If Anthropologists Found Me


So I’ve been reading about ancient bones lately.

No, not the geriatric news report. More like the ancient skeletons that scientists seem to keep finding in strange places. The old bones of our distant ancestors what are unearthed when archeologist and anthropologists get grants to muck about in the wilderness.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Take the old Kennewick Man, for example. This old native American lived up in what we now call Washington State. But he lived there around 9,000 years ago.

His bones were dug up and all kinds of smart and learned people started to analyze his life. What he ate, where he lived, how he hunted. They figured all this out just from looking at his dusty old bones.

And then there’s Ötzi the Iceman, whose mummified remains were dug up in the Alps. He did his hiking some 5,000 years ago and died on one of his treks. (One of the many good reasons why I have told my husband that I’m no longer interested in mountain climbing.)

When scientists analyzed these remains, they were able to describe exactly what the dead men had eaten, and how long before their deaths those meals has been enjoyed. They looked at the bones, at the hair, at the teeth and the stomach contents and came up with all kind of facts about the men. Where they lived, what they did for work, how far each walked in a year.

Fascinating.

So it got me thinking.

If I died today, and somehow got myself buried or frozen or mummified or hermetically sealed in a big old bag, what would future scientists make of my remains?

If they looked at my stomach contents, they would no doubt conclude that women who lived in my time were sustained by pasta, chocolate and a boatload of wine.

Suppose those future anthropologists examined my bones? I bet they would conclude that I had lived a highly active, athletic life. They might surmise that I had spent my adulthood working with my hands.

They would think these things because they’d see several broken fingers.

How would they know that all were broken when I tried to learn how to play basketball, but managed to jam my fingers more often that palm the ball?

They would see a broken bone in one foot and broken toes on each of my feet. “Athletic”, they might think. “Maybe a runner.”

I don’t suppose it would occur to them that I might have slipped off of a flip-flop while walking in the wet grass, thereby breaking a metatarsal bone. They’d have no way of knowing that I would have then stubbornly walked on that broken foot for six weeks before going to the doctor.

And there’s no way in the world that those future scientific geniuses would realize that by slightly favoring that right foot I would have caused my ankle to freeze up and for two of my toes to basically fuse.

I’m sure that if my old mummified carcass was examined closely by future scientists, they would see the scar tissue in my jaw, too. They might use that scarring to infer that I ate a lot of very tough and chewy meats. They might assume that I used my back teeth to chomp on fibrous vegetation, or large fruits and nuts.

How in the world could they know that my jaw was out of alignment because when I was 16 years old I accidentally threw away my orthodontic retainer, which my Mom had mailed to me while I was on a trip to North Africa?

They might think that the indentation on the right side of my forehead was caused by a fight, or a war or some other heroic action.

There is nothing about that divot to tell them that I dropped a huge canister vac on my head while falling down a flight of stairs.

So I wonder.

I wonder if Kennewick man was just a clumsy old dude who got drunk and landed in a bog? I wonder if Ötzi the iceman wasn’t really a high altitude shepherd with bad teeth from eating too much grain. Maybe he was a singer who was on tour in a mountain town when he passed out from a night of eating caramel corn.

Who knows?

I just know that we should question our assumptions.

And that if future anthropologist stumble across my frozen carcass, they will never guess what the tattoo on my back really means.

Dear Christmas Charities


Dear various groups of needy children, hospital patients, veterans, abandoned pets, sick nuns, lonely old people and lost souls.

I understand that we have entered the season of giving.

Believe me, I give.

I shop regularly at Unicef Market, where everything I buy provides food, water and medicine to kids around the world. I donate to my local food bank and to programs for homeless folks in my community. I really do try to be as generous as I can to as many causes as I can.

But here’s where I absolutely draw the line and will not cough up one single tiny coppery penny.

If you send me an unsolicited envelope full of swag, and then expect me to “donate” as a way of paying for it, you can just fuggedaboudit.

Want to see what I got in the mail today, along with a fake letter from a little child supposedly named “Joseph”? I got this:

I will not name this “charity,” but it is supposed to be raising funds for children in need. According the enclosed paperwork, the money is desperately needed for the education, shelter and care of these young ones.

M’Kay…..so why did they spend the money to send me a dreamcatcher, three notepads, a set of Christmas stickers, a page of return address labels, a pen, a page of Christmas gift tags, four Christmas cards (individually wrapped) and a freakin’ pair of kids gloves?

ALL of it wrapped in cellophane, decorated, and packaged along with 5 pages of paperwork and the “letter” from Joseph.

It makes me sick.

In order to actually raise money for these kids (if in fact there are any kids), the organization would need to offset the costs of all of this swag, plus the printing, plus the postage.

I estimate that my package alone cost in the area of five dollars. I’d have to donate six for them to get any profit, right?

But if they sent our one package to every household on my street, that would be 20 houses for $100. I know that one house is empty, so that’s a loss. I believe that most people toss out junk mail, so perhaps 10% would send in a donation.

If they are that lucky, and 10% donate ten bucks, they break even.

But if they just sent the information, and maybe a link to a website, that same $100 donation would give them a good return, right?

So why do these groups do this? Why do they send out huge packages of unwanted stuff to complete strangers around the country?

Because of guilt.

They are relying on the fact that most people are good and decent and don’t want to take something without giving back. They are counting on the idea that enough of us will think, “Gosh, a pair of gloves! And all these pretty stickers! I need to send them at least something…..”

Not this wise old woman. I am not falling for that trick.

Instead, I will keep every one of the unsolicited goodies and will put them to good use.

Then I’ll take the estimated value, add in a donation amount, and send the money to Unicef.

The Eye of the Beholder


It was a day today. Just a normal day.

It was a Sunday, in northern Massachusetts, in the last week of October.

It rained all day and the wind kept sweeping back and forth across our yard, seemingly intent on scrubbing away all signs of summer.

The yellow leaves swirled through the air like dancers and the newly empty trees bowed to the left and to the right.

I sat in my comfy rocker with a blanket on my knees. I watched the weather and smiled.

It was perfect.

Like every other adult in the world today, my days are packed with responsibilities. Taking care of my grandchildren and one of their friends, shopping, cooking, entertaining friends, helping to look after my elderly Mom, dealing with two young and energetic dogs……

All of it is good and all of really does bring me joy.

But I am exhausted. I’ve spent the past ten days or so fighting off a visit to the doctor. Refusing to go on medications that make me feel worse than I did before. The nose is stuffy, the lungs are wheezy, the aches are chasing the pains across my spine and I have a mystery foot ailment that has me limping like an old sailor.

I needed one day to myself.

And my dear friend, Mother Nature, has complied. It is cold. It is too rainy to work in the yard. Too cold to clean the garage. I had some new friends here for dinner last night, so there is no need clean anything.

Today has been spent reading a very cool mystery novel (The Nowhere Child). It has been spent sipping tea and eating mini cannolis brought by our friends. Dogs have been snoozing on my lap.

Even my workaholic husband has been reading, snoozing and playing games on his phone.

Perfect.

As I sit here now, I am looking out at a gray, dreary dusk. The rain pours down. The wind keeps blowing.

As I sit here, the light of my house shines in contrast to the cold night ahead. I am safe. I am sitting. I gaze out into the golden glow of the leaves that remain on our beech and oak trees. I can see the last bright sign of life from our “Burning bush”. I know that winter is heading our way.

But all will be well.

Because every now and then, a day will come when my body tells me to simply sit down and shut up. I’ll pour some hot herb tea, grab a good book, and fold the fuzzy blanket over the dog on my lap.

Life is good. Especially when we don’t expect it to be.

Big Small


When my kids were little, they used to describe the weird feeling of having a fever as having “big/small”. They said that the world felt small, tucked tight around them. But their hands and feet felt big, as if they were filled with helium.

The strange part is that I knew what they meant. I got it.

Now that I am an old lady with sleep and pain issues, and am a happy user of cannabis at night, I REALLY know what they mean.

The room is small. The sounds are big.

So. I was thinking about all of this bizarre focusing in and out and size changing today. Because I was home on my own all day, and I read, watched and listened to WAY too much news.

My focus on my world was BIG. I was forced to confront a crashing stock market, a raging fire in our Amazonian “lungs of the world” and two new cases of deadly EEE in my state.

The big world is terrifying to me right now.

I am afraid of the ticks (lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis). I am afraid of mosquitoes (West Nile Virus, Triple E). I’m scared of getting a sunburn because my Dad died of melanoma.

But even more scary is the fact that the oceans are rising, the largest forest on earth is on fire, and the Russians are promising to create and deploy a new super weapon.

I can barely force myself to leave my house!

If I shop, I’m afraid of e-coli in my produce. I’m afraid that some pissed off guy with a gun will decide to shoot up my grocery store.

The big picture is freakin’ terrifying.

So I turned my focus inward. I made it smaller.

I rubbed my doggies’ bellies. I walked them through out quiet neighborhood. I chatted with my friend and her beautiful one year old daughter.

Looking at the bright blue eyes of that little beauty, I started to think that all was well. My focus was back on my immediate and beautiful world.

I looked at the flowers in my yard. At the crazy weeds jumping out of the fertile earth. I laughed at the ridiculous pumpkin plant that it now ten feet up in a tree.

It felt safe. I felt comforted.

But then I got home. And looked again at Twitter.

The big came back; the lies and insanity of our President hit me in the face.

I clicked off and scrolled through pictures of my grandchildren.

I thought about my own kids. About how deeply and purely I loved them when they were little, and how much I love them now.

Big focus: My retirement fund is melting before my eyes.

Small focus: My house is clean and calm and comfortable.

Big: The world can’t live through this much climate damage.

Small: My yard is blooming effortlessly, and the grass never went brown.

And so it went, my focus and my fear swinging wildly from the worst to the best of feelings.

The oaks are full of acorns. We may have a cold and snowy winter. But I have a freezer full of corn, beans, peas and carrots.

Social media is full of rage and hate. But my grandchildren, my dogs and the lovely little girl next door are full of unconditional love.

Phew.

I need to learn how to keep my focus on the little things, and keep the big things in my peripheral vision.

It’s Kind of a Miracle


So. I spent all day yesterday travelling.

Woke up at 6:30 AM, Pacific time. Washed up and got dressed. We had packed our suitcases the night before, so all we had to do was toss a few last minute items into our bags.

We didn’t have time for a real breakfast, so my husband and our two friends and I went to the general store at the lodge where we’d been staying. We got our coffees and our slightly stale muffins. We checked out of our place in Yosemite National Park and shoved all of our luggage into the trunk of our rental car.

Katja, Paul and I were passengers, and Katja’s husband Jorg was our driver.

When everyone had a coffee in hand, and everything had been safely packed, we headed out for our four hour journey from vacationland to the airport. We laughed a little and shared photos and talked about our next adventure. Then we all slumped back in our seats and let Jorg maneuver his way through rush hour traffic.

When we finally made our way to San Fransisco, we had to stop for gas, then make our way to the rental car return. When that task was finished, we lugged all of our bags through the car rental building and onto the airport transit.

It was a sad time, saying goodbye to our German friends for at least a year. We hugged and laughed and thanked each other, but all of us were focused on getting ourselves home.

Paul and I grabbed our bags and headed down the escalator, through the building and into the concourse. Ten minutes of walking found us at our departure gate, and we checked our bags and got our seats.

The flight loaded, we flew to Detroit, then we raced across what felt like 50 miles of airport to make our connecting flight, worried the entire time that our luggage wouldn’t make it.

Because we had forgotten to take our car keys out of said luggage, and if we got to New Hampshire while our keys were in Detroit…..well. You can imagine.

But, the bags were checked and we couldn’t uncheck them. We stood in line for our seats, and finally boarded our flight home.

After sitting for what felt like an hour on the tarmac, the plane finally took off. I had my book open on my lap, but I was too nervous to read it.

By now we’d been awake for some 14 hours. We were tired, anxious, and pretty cranky.

And as our plane took off, I thought about how miserable I was. I was sitting in the world’s smallest seat, breathing in stale air and feeling my ears pop.

I was in a skinny metal tube, filled with the exhalations of a hundred other humans who had spent the day eating nothing but cheetos and pre-packaged salami sandwiches. All of us were exuding stale sweat, dirty foot aroma and salami/coffee/cheeto breath.

We were elbow to elbow in a tin can, trying to pass the time by watching videos that none of us could hear over the roaring of the jet’s engines.

I was not happy.

I wanted out.

I wanted out NOW.

I felt my neck muscles cramping as I sat there with my knees raised and my neck bent. I was not a cheery traveler.

But I glanced out the window as the plane rose through the sky. The full moon was out there, seemingly right beside me. Down below, I saw the twinkling lights of an American city.

I felt us rising into the air, and suddenly I found myself remembering the scene in the old “Peter Pan” movie, when the children found themselves magically able to fly.

I felt us rise.

I felt myself rise.

I put my hand to my heart and leaned into the window, watching the lights of Detroit as they faded below me.

“This is a miracle,” I thought.

And it was.

We had woken up in a Yosemite Park lodge, and now we were in Detroit. We were heading home.

In less than one day, in only 15 hours, we had crossed the entire continent. A journey that at one time took a full year had been completed in a little more than half of one day.

It was a miracle.

In spite of the cramped space, the waiting in lines, the dragging of suitcases, the bad food, it was so so worth it.

We can now travel across continents in the time it took our ancestors to cross a township. We can wake up in the middle of a Ponderosa Pine forest and go to bed in a maple grove.

Now our biggest challenge, I think, is to appreciate that reality.

We live in an age of miracles.