Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Scenes of the Season

Thinking about leaf-peeping and sweeping views, we traveled up to Mt. Magazine State Park this week. It is the highest point in Arkansas and there's a very pretty new lodge on top of the mountain. To get there, we drove about three hours along 2-lane back roads past rolling pastures and tiny towns. The drive was fun, but when we reached the lodge, we found that the views were blanketed with fog, the trees were practically bare, and the weather was bitter cold. And thus we learned that November is a terrible time to visit Mt. Magazine. Oh well. In the spring, we'll go back up there for the views.

Luckily, we had anticipated the cold, and bundled up well enough to hike the foggy trails. It was actually quite beautiful - and quiet - almost like a medieval forest, nothing stirring except ourselves. The lodge was quiet, too. Restful and warm.

Katie hosted the most amazing holiday dinner party last night in Perryville. She served up one of her own turkeys, plus a spread of side dishes and desserts that would make Martha Stewart blush - all with a toddler at her knees trying to 'help' or needing a snack or getting into some kind of trouble. Life is way more complicated - and fun - now that Honey is walking.

More than twenty people turned up to appreciate Katie's handiwork, and we all ate ourselves silly. It was a warm, delicious evening. Good job, Katie!

I hope that all my friends enjoy a warm and delicious holiday, too, wherever you are.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Big, Happy News

I am so delighted to tell you that Katie and Travis are expecting another baby.

The new baby is due next June, just a couple of weeks after Honey's second birthday.

Katie and Travis are healthy, happy and solidly grounded about the news. She said, "As of now, I feel better than is probably fair."

Meanwhile, Mick and I are trying hard not to be as sloppily solicitous as Spencer Tracey and Joan Bennett in "Father's Little Dividend" - remember that funny old movie from the 1950s?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kindly Strangers

Katie and Travis were harvesting Thanksgiving turkeys today. A bunch of their friends helped out, but still the job kept them busy from dawn until late afternoon. Whew. Honey and I had lots of time to kill.

We went out for breakfast, something we love to do together. There's only one restaurant in Perryville, and people greet Honey and me by name when we go there. I honestly can't understand the conversations at other tables - when people are talking to each other and not to me - because of their extremely thick accents, and because they're all as familiar with each other as puppies from the same litter. They leave out the half of each story that everybody else already knows and refer knowingly to offstage people and events. I am a complete outsider. But people are very friendly and kind. They never fail to greet me, wish me a good day, and to make tender contact with Honey. Their kindness draws me back there every time I'm in Perryville.

After our breakfast and our dose of local color, Honey and I went to the laundromat. She loved helping put wet clothes into the dryer and then later taking them out dry, and oh yeah, she loved pushing the carts back and forth. I wish you could hear the happy "Hunnnhhhh" sound she made while pushing around the empty baskets. She would have whistled if she knew how.

We also went to a car wash (whoooeee), an ATM machine (not so much fun), and a grocery store (lots of people to charm). When we got back home, we spent a very happy time listening to the wind, swinging in the swing, barking at the dogs, exploring the back of my station wagon, and watching leaves fall from the trees.

I love spending time with Honey, and with Katie and her friends.

And I also really long for some friends my own age.

We are meeting lots of local people - in our neighborhood, in our office building, at the Buddhist center, at the farmer's market, and oh yes, at the restaurant in Perryville. But its a challenge turning kindly strangers into real friends. I think I will need to cultivate an upbeat, open-for-anything attitude like Honey has. People seem to find it irresistible.

Meanwhile, I'm really grateful for the genuine warmth that is so common in this Southern culture. I'm cultivating that, too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Roots and Leaves

Yesterday, Katie and Honey came to make some food deliveries in town. I got to spend the morning with them. Honey was wearing her dragon costume hat. Here's a couple of shots of her, one with her mom and one with her dad. Everywhere we went, people cooed over Honey and I wondered what a baby thinks on her first Halloween. I mean, for all Honey knows, she's always going to wear costumes and make people smile. Why not?

Both Mick and I have hunched over our computers for way too many hours recently. He's working on a big poster project for Amtrak. Very exciting for him, but very tense, too.

I've been doing a family history research project while waiting for a client to get back to me. See, my dad's grandfather had a sister who lived on a farm outside of Little Rock some time ago. Dad came to visit "Aunt Angie" when he was a boy - in 1936 or so - and that was the last he ever heard of her. I wondered if maybe I could find out what happened to Angie White, maybe even find her grave.

I turned to a website called where you can enter what you know about a person and if you are lucky, a leaf appears beside their name indicating that the database has more information about that person. In no time at all - Bingo! - I found Angie and her husband in the 1930 census.

The website should come with a warning label because it is so easy to get carried away. Before I knew what was happening to me, I lost several days and nights following leafy 'hints' at, like an obsessed person. I told my sister Iris what I was doing because she's our family history expert. And Iris jumped into it with me: while I was sleeping, Iris would be adding new leaves and branches to the tree. Then I started adding Mick's family - more leaves, more leaves! - and now, our tree has over 750 people on it.

I tied myself up in knots tracing more and more details about more and more remote ancestors. Finally, I just needed to take a break. Mick did, too.

So yesterday, after our visit with Katie and Honey, Mick and I went to the Arkansas arboretum at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Its a beautiful park overlooking the Arkansas river, just about 10 minutes from our home. We're continuing our quest to learn about all the gracious old trees in our neighborhood, and we hoped to pin down some details at the arboretum, like, what is the difference between a Red Oak and a White one?

Unfortunately, nearly all of the trees at the arboretum had already dropped nearly all of their leaves on the ground. We learned a few things about bark and such, but we'll have to go back in the spring to learn anything more. However, we got ourselves some fresh air, some exercise, and a delicious break from our computers. We sat beside a creek listening to the crickets and woodpeckers chiming in with the babbling water and the wind.

Of course, we're both already back at our computer screens this Sunday afternoon. But hopefully, with a fresher outlook.

I miss my friends and hope you are all doing well. Write me back sometime. I would love to hear from you!