Some of My Favorites

Here are some of my favorite things:

  • Walking in the woods, taking lousy photographs along the way. My specialty is close-ups. Occasionally I aim the camera into the sunlight, with trees or other objects filtering the light. Direct-sunlight pictures are a sure-fire way to impress your friends, even if you have absolutely no ability as a photographer. I’m glad it pleases them, but it’s all the work of the sun, not of any craft on my part.
  • In said woods, sitting on a rock and recording the sounds. I usually do this by starting a video recording, and pointing the camera in a big arc. All I really want is the sounds that are going on in the woods; the circular view is just to make it resemble a video, rather than a mistake. (“Did he accidentally switch it on record? Is he livestreaming??”) More often than not, I don’t post the result on social media. Frequently I don’t even listen to the thing. But still, it’s valuable, because the act of recording makes me aware of those sounds. So much technology is about the person using the tech; the gizmo is just a tool. It’s easy to forget that.
  • The first cup of coffee of the day.
  • Carrying that very last shovelful of wet, sticky snow from the driveway. Or, that last chunk of lawn that needs to be cut. It reminds me of when I was in my twenties, working for a guy named Jim Terpstra, an old Dutchman who did painting and paperhanging in Bergen County, New Jersey. He used wooden ladders and mixed his own paint, giving his own version of native wit and wisdom along the way. Occasionally he’d enlist me to help him paint the shutters for a house. It was a pretty labor-intensive task. As he removed each shutter, he’d carefully mark it with a Roman numeral on the edge with a chisel, so he could get the right shutter back on the right hinge. Shutters back in the day were hand made, and there were minor variations in each. We stacked them all up in the garage, set up sawhorses and set the first one on top, first dry-brushing it to remove the cobwebs and dirt, then painting inner edges, top, and outer edges. My part was to paint the opposite edge, so he didn’t have to move the shutter around. The wonder of it was that he’d get all the edges except those that were on my side, lay in the top panels and gingerbread, in the time that it took me to do my two edges. Working as a team, we blazed through the pile quickly. Then, finally the boss would pick up a shutter and say, “That’s the one I was looking for.” Which one was that? I’d ask, and he’d say, “The last one.” So not only do I experience satisfaction along with the tiredness, when I carefully carry that last heavy hunk of sloppy, wet snow, teetering on the snow shovel. If you are reading this in fall or summer, imagine me mowing the grass instead. I guess I should mention here that I tend to write pieces like this, then let them sit for a while, in hopes that they will improve with time. Generally, this doesn’t work, and I have to edit it like everybody else.
  • Writing blog posts like this one.
  • Gazing up at the large oak tree in front my house, covered in wet, sticky snow. I look up at this noble giant, and think, ‘You’ve seen owners come and go, and still you’re here, just steadily thriving and growing.’
  • Sharing music with friends. On Saturday we sang a few songs for the folks who showed up at our housewarming party.
  • Falling asleep. Usually I read a book on my Kindle, and usually I don’t drop the Kindle on my face as I get sleepy. My wife can’t understand how I do that. If she starts reading in bed, she’ll be reading till 2:30 a.m. I’m lucky to get through two pages.

O sleep, it is a gentle thing
Belov’d from pole to pole!
To Mary-queen the praise be yeven
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven
That slid into my soul.

Rime of the Ancyent Marinere by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  • Being hungry, and having food. Food in itself is not necessarily a sensual delight, because it goes hand in hand with hunger. Having exactly the food you crave, and eating it, Cookie Monster style, mum mum, that is a perfect combination. And being hungry without food to satisfy it is not much fun at all. I’d extend that to other types of hunger, like:
    • loneliness–>company;
    • boredom–>something fun to do;
    • noise and chaos–>silence.

Patrice and Richard’s 2017 Experience

Oh, what a year we had! Have you heard about our travels? (Observe us below at a Maori “Living Village” in New Zealand. I think we need to work on the challenge of lowering our eyebrows while sticking our tongues out.)

FullSizeRender (69).jpg In June Richard retired from full-time work, and we spent a crazy month emptying the house, selling it just before we left for our loooong trip around the world. On July 16th, we were off!

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July 17 – Ireland

PMF windy Ireland.jpg We started in Dublin, and then went up to County Donegal where Patrice met three new Irish second cousins. See her at right, standing in the field where her maternal grandfather was born—and yes, there was a cottage there back in the day. We saw the glorious Ring of Kerry, drove on the “wrong” side of the road, and felt right at home in this gorgeous country.

August 2 – Scotland

It’s been our dream to sing at the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, and this year we finally did it, giving a cabaret performance and leading a worship service the next weekend, both at St. Mark’s Unitarian Church. The city was packed with excitement, performers, and attendees for the 75th Fringe Festival. After Edinburgh, we went north to the tiny town of Leslie, in Insch. We stayed in the Leslie Room at Leslie Castle, and we weren’t the only Leslies there! Our visit included an impromptu concert for the owner—the daughter of the Baron of Leslie—in the Baronial Hall.

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August 20 – England

We zipped down to London and saw the fabulous “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” with Audra McDonald… and we got a chance to meet her outside the stage door. An amazing talent, and very gracious to her fans.

FullSizeRender (77).jpgAugust 23 – France

We flew Paris for Patrice’s birthday at the end of August. Highlights of France included mouth-watering crepes, the rental of a snazzy black Jaguar (not our choice—it was probably the last car they had left), and a visit to a charming medieval town where we stayed with Facebook friends who offered a cottage to us sight unseen. Another friend-of-a-friend in Paris showed us around and took us to a fascinating open-air market with delicious Moroccan food. Throughout this trip, we managed to connect with kind, never-before-met friends who generously shared their towns, their homes, and often their yummy cooking. Thank you—you know who you are!

September 1 – Belgium

Our brief stop in Brussels featured a jam-packed beer festival set smack in the middle of the Grand Place, and Belgian waffles that had to be seen to be believed.

Sept. 4 – The Netherlands

In Amsterdam Patrice connected with a law school chum and friends from Connecticut, while Kathleen joined us from California. Loved the city, the incredible art, and the charm, but found the streets full of bikes difficult to navigate.

Sept. 11 – Germany

Kathleen continued to Berlin, where we took a long walking tour ending up at the Holocaust Memorial. We had just been to see the Ann Frank House in Amsterdam, and the next day we toured the Jewish Museum. Powerful and meaningful, yet full of disturbing truths.

Sept. 19 – Austria

Next up was Vienna where we got a fabulous personal tour of the Wiener Staatsoper from our friend Speedo, a rising international opera star. In contrast to her visit years ago as a student (while living on bread and cheese and staying in youth hostels) Patrice wanted to spring for tickets for both the Vienna Choirboys and the Lipizzaner Stallions. Absolutely worth it.

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Sept. 26 – Italy

Florence and Rome. What else needs to be said? We spent hours and got sore feet walking around the Uffizi Gallery, and we adored our Airbnb view of the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. A highlight was a trip to a farm in the Tuscan countryside, where we made pasta by hand and enjoyed a concert featuring a soprano diva and harpist—and then stepped in ourselves to sing a duet!

Oct. 10 – Thailand

Then for something completely different, we went to Thailand. Loved the food and the people and had trouble with the heat and the humidity. Our trip up to Chiang Mai to visit an elephant rescue park was phenomenal. A very different world.

FullSizeRender (63).jpgOct. 16 – Vietnam

More heat and humidity, delicious food, and lovely people. We went to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The traffic and the hordes of motorcyclists were somewhat scary. We visited the War Remembrance Museum, a sobering experience for Americans, despite the fact that 90% of the Vietnamese are too young to remember the war. We sang for our Airbnb hosts in Hoi An to thank them and their neighbors, tailors who made us cool custom clothing.

Oct. 31 – Singapore

The orderliness of Singapore was in startling contrast to Vietnam. We were there only a couple of nights, but we were impressed with this city-state, one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Nov. 2 – Australia

Australia is a gorgeous country that is so big that we could visit only a small part of it. We rented a car and made our way to Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne, and then had a grand time at a friend’s sheep farm in the wilds of Victoria. Along the way we saw kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, and assorted other creatures—including little penguins on parade—and had an altogether excellent experience down under.

Nov. 21 – New Zealand

New Zealand was one of our favorite places on the whole trip. Miles and miles of beauty, clean water, and friendly people. Plus Hobbits! We adored it. It’s not cheap to live there, but it would be high on our list of spots to settle in, if only it weren’t so far from our kids.

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Dec. 4 – Tahiti

At the end of our journey, we spent two weeks in glorious French Polynesia, visiting Moorea, Bora Bora, and Papeete on the main island of Tahiti Nui. It doesn’t get any lovelier than this paradise in the middle of the Pacific. And Patrice got a chance to dance with the locals.

FullSizeRender (76).jpgDec. 21 – California

We spent Christmas with Kathleen in Los Angeles, where we were thrilled to jump in with her local UU choir for their Christmas Eve service. It was amazing to be back in the U.S. Water you can drink. People who not only speak English but pronounce it the way we do. Money that doesn’t make you feel like an idiot as you puzzle over the coins in your hand when trying to pay the guy at the 7-Eleven!

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After Los Angeles, we visited Richard’s sister Joan in Oakland. It was great to have time to be with her and see her current digs. We then went on to…

Dec. 30 – Oregon

… where we are checking out Portland for three months. Seems very cool so far (and not, fortunately, as freezing as New England right now).

April, 2018 – Connecticut

We plan to be in the Hartford area from about mid-April through October. We will catch up with friends, decide where we want to visit/live next, and celebrate a family wedding—Derek and Lindsey are getting married!

Here’s wishing all of you a fabulous 2018.

Watch this space for news from us next year… living who knows where?

Patrice and Richard

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