Thursday, June 17, 2021




     Perhaps like you, we have seen the Mona Lisa hanging there in its place of honor in the Louvre. Our modest world travels have included a pilgrimage to what some accept as the world’s most perfect painting. We have been there and done that. So what do we have to show for it?

Truth to tell, our personal rendezvous with Leonardo’s masterpiece was a rather hurried moment, played out in a shoulder to shoulder crowd….all of whom were straining to capture a glimpse of the prize.

As I recall, in my artistically-illiterate eyes Mona was a bit smaller than  I expected. True, she did seem to be smiling at me….though Roma was just as certain she was the target of her attention.

I suppose there were a few visitors in that tourist-laden crowd who had come to seriously study the subtle, yet apparently powerful elements of that masterpiece. Would they be able to accomplish that in those circumstances? I don’t know.

I am, however, quite certain that most of us Mona Lisa gawkers were there because we had been told we ought to be. After all, it was famous…. something we would probably never see again. Then, having seen it, we could check that box and move on to the next “big thing.”


Bear with me for a moment as I revisit that time, that highlight of our continental travels…..or more accurately, my memories of that brief moment in a long life.

It was a sunny September morning. Everyone around us was upbeat and eager to begin their great art adventure….the world-renown Louvre. I remember standing in line waiting for the doors to open. (They were late opening that morning.) We had studied our Rick Steve’s map of the sprawling building….planning our route through the dozens of galleries to see what we had been told were the best sights.

And then, in a matter hours, it was over. Having seen what we wanted to see, our investment of time, anticipation, and attention had produced our own very personal return…..a collage of memories we hoped would last a lifetime.

That, it seems to me, is the reality of the wanderlust and travel urges I have never outgrown. Truth is, the places, people, and things we see along the way are invariably fleeting experiences. Rather than the sights and sounds themselves, lasting travel success depends on the memories, photos, souvenirs, and friendships we create along the way….the reminders we bring home with us, the ones we can revisit anytime in the future. Bottom line…..the most successful travel is a mental exercise….as good and lasting as our memory.

Be it the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, a dreamy Rue Cler dinner, or Yorkshire vistas that take your breath away….in every case the moment itself is transitory. Yet though we may never return there again in person, its impact can last a lifetime.


So why do we travel? What do we hope to gain or achieve? What is it we bring home from those travels? And what do they mean…..the memories and mementos of our time abroad?

More to the point, at our age why would the two of us even consider another round of extended travel…..the ten or twelve week adventures that worked so well for the younger “us”? What would we hope to gain this time? Is there something new to be learned, a reason to go again?

I still have those moments, you know….when I can visualize the two of us doing that again, driving the backroads, doing our age-appropriate “wild and crazy” things. Yet, that hazy vision is quickly coupled with so many reasons why those once-appealing possibilities would not be such a good idea at this stage of the game.

Some of the possible deterrents are practical matters…..sitting quietly through a ten-hour transcontinental flight is probably beyond me. The notion of a new and different bed every few nights has lost its appeal. Extended walking tours are out of the question. 

Beyond those physical limitations are the more subtle reasons. Anymore there are not that many things we want to DO. Instead, we have grown more interested in observing what goes on around us, soaking up the feel and mood of a place and its people. Those mental souvenirs, along with reminding photos, are what we would hope to bring home with us.

Is that enough to fan even the most modest dreams of traveling again? A review of the pros and cons seems to weigh against that.

Instead, why not return to our own earlier travels….the albums, notebooks, photos, and mementos we have of those times. Why not take the time to milk the feelings and memories of remembered times, as seen through our now-older eyes, and filtered through our now-older minds

Seems to me that approach would allow us to side-step the limitations of the “we” we have become, while allowing us to view our old travels on a new screen, complete with new, more mature insights


Here’s the deal… is lived in our minds. That was true at twenty-five or thirty. It is even more true at eighty-four. The travel we love and look forward to, no matter what the destination, is a mind game….to be lived and relived in our consciousness… thoughts, memories, and daydreams.

If that is so…..why should we subject our aging bodies, so ill-fitted for the rigors of modern-day travel, to demanding flights, strenuous excursions, constantly changing accommodations, etc.

Why not simply send our mind, our consciousness, on the “trip of our dreams”? With generous assists from our photo library, notebooks, YouTube, Google, and other internet resources we can capture the good things we hope to experience, while saving the wear and tear on our aging bodies.

Why not return to our own fruitful past….even flesh it out if necessary ….to create the mind-dwelling future we dream of.

Thursday, May 27, 2021





I keep reading that, in the wake of the recent pandemic, we are in the process of “returning to normal.” Obviously, all of us would like that to be true. And if it is, will the “normal” that awaits us look like our old normal, the one we knew before, or will it be some new and altered version of normal? How would you describe the normal that awaits us?

We see the signs daily, on the tube and in the newspaper. Some of our more daring neighbors are kicking back, living out what they hope is the returning normal. They are dining out at the local restaurant…..inside at a table, not the “take-out” window. They are having drinks with friends at the local bar, or gathering for public events. In those often-crowded settings, where each person’s vaccine status is anyone’s guess,  masks and social distancing sometimes seem to be last week’s news.

For some of us the returning normal will be about employment…..the opportunity to work again, or the return of a daily commute to the office. For others, “normal” will include sending the kids back to school, and hopefully finding reliable day-care.

To be sure, there are still unanswered questions about our “post-pandemic” normal….what it will look like, how it will feel? Heck, it seems as though “post-pandemic,” as in “after” the pandemic, may itself be a misnomer.

If enough of our fellow citizens continue to reject the available vaccines our “herd”  may never achieve the immunity we once assumed would be part of our new normal. Unless there is a drastic change in vaccine acceptance it is possible that COVID-19 will remain an operative part of our ongoing normal…..something to be guarded against for years to come.

True, the pandemic numbers… loads, hospitalizations, and deaths…..will continue to decline. But the virus, with its periodic surges and mutating variants, may be with us for a long time…..lying in wait for unsuspecting souls.


All of the above may well describe our society’s future….the normal we must learn to live with. For the moment, however, I prefer to view my own family’s “return to normal” through a different, very personal, even selfish lens.

You see, for the first time in seventeen months, since Christmas 2019, Roma, I, our four children, and their spouses gathered for a weekend at the coast… celebrate our youngest’s fiftieth birthday and the liberating reality that fully-vaccinated adults can take such liberties. Though we were too timid to do the crowds downtown, our beach house gathering fit us just fine.

Best of all, the “normal” we experienced together felt just like it always has. It was so……so normal. We visited, and caught up on news of the grand-children and great-grandchildren. We played cards and other silly games. There was ping-pong and foosball. We dined together, followed Phil’s attack on the PGA course, and watched my beloved Spurs choke again. Those who were so inclined walked on the beach, while some of us caught up on our napping. Best of all, hugs had become fashionable again.

We were together for just two short days, but are already making plans to gather again. No matter what our nation’s evolving definition of  “Return to Normal” may be, I heartily recommend that all of us make room for a personal sort of normal, the sort that includes family and dear friends.

That kind of normal was appropriate pre-pandemic, and will continue to be appropriate post-pandemic. So why not give it a try?

Monday, May 10, 2021



            May I invite you to look over my shoulder as I dispense a bit of elder-wisdom to our offspring. I’ll warn you that as you read this you may wonder why a grumpy old father would be offering such advice to his adult children. After all, they are in their fifties.

My grumpy old answer is simple enough. I have serious concerns about our nation’s future, not to mention the world’s. As I read the signs of the time my conclusions trouble me. The possibility of hard times ahead seems real to me, and I want the ones I care about the most to be as prepared as possible for that future.

With that in mind this is what I am telling my family.


So….what does your old man do with his time these days….once the veggies are watered, the day’s blog has been posted, and his Fantasy League strategy has gone wrong yet again?

Well, somedays he doesn’t do much of anything…..beyond keeping track of Dr Phil and Rachel Maddow, and dwelling on his particular obsession.

You may recall hearing that as a youngster I joined the Boy Scouts…..three times. They were the ones with a “Be Prepared” motto. Though my membership never did stick, the motto apparently did. In fact, that may have been the root of my “particular obsession.”

You, of course, have heard my “Be Prepared” rambles before. Chances are you have wondered about my logic. Truth is, my reasons are based not on certainty, but instead on possibilities.

What sort of possibilities am I talking about? To begin with, they are events that may never happen…..but realistically could. But more importantly, if any of them were to happen it might be hard, even impossible, to deal with the outcome in a satisfactory way if you were not prepared in advance.….i.e. - if you wait until the event occurs it might be too late to create an effective response.

Consider, for instance, today’s ‘post-modern’ world…..with its landscape of potential traps……like the ones noted here.

****The growing impact of drought, storms, and            climate change.

****Threats to our nation’s food production capability.

****Continuing price inflation on all products and services.

****Interruptions to our “just-in-time” food delivery system.

****Growing international resource competition, i.e. China 

****Ransomware cyber attacks on our national systems.

****Extreme political dysfunction - too conservative, too liberal.

****The threat of a continuing pandemic.

****Exploding national debt, and a declining dollar.

****The impact of a State government financial squeeze.

****Growing personal debt levels.

****The impact of rising interest rates

****And any others you would like to add.

It seems likely that any one (or more) of those outcomes could have a serious impact on how we feed and house our families, and most every other facet of our lives. If so, I repeat……by the time any of those events actually reach a tipping point, IT MAY BE TOO LATE TO PROTECT YOURSELF.

So what are the odds? The chances of having to deal with ALL those possibilities at once is very slim. But when I look ahead a year or two the chance that one or more of those “possibilities” could turn against us seems rather likely… least in my tired old eyes.

So the question is…..what does the future hold for you and yours, and how will you cope with whatever comes your way? How well prepared would you be if one or more of those “possibilities” actually occurred? And finally, what can you do now to help you and your family be more ready if something like that happens?

What “being prepared” means to you is for you to decide. In fact, as a parent and head-of-household that is your job, your obligation. Whether you consider the food you eat, the cleaning supplies you use daily, or the financial resources you rely on……no matter what the threat, I believe there is a powerful argument for BEING PREPARED.

Because if, and/or when, one of those possibilities arises… may already be too late to begin your preparation. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021


         No matter what our age, in the course of our lifetime each of us has created our own gallery of memories. Embedded in those recollections are hints of life lessons learned.

Yet how often have we have paused to consider those lessons and the ways they have served us……the ways they have helped us become the person we are?


It feels like a new start. For years I have used three email lists, plus Facebook, to spread the word about my October Years efforts……. whether blog posts or serialized stories.

Now, in light of the recent culling of our “non-involved” audience, I am hoping we have a smaller, but more responsive readership.

Chances are you have heard me grumble before about the sad fact that we have never been able to create a blog dialogue, the two-way conversation I had hoped to generate from the beginning. I didn’t need to be doing all the talking. I was hoping the rest of the world would speak up. Though that hasn’t happened yet, here I am…….back for another bite of the apple.

It seems as though what began as my October years, which over time became November years, (I hope it is not December yet.) has turned more quiet and uneventful than ever…..hemmed in by lockdown constraints and social isolation. Were it not for the serializing of a couple stories I would be staring at the walls, wondering what to do. 

Then a few days ago, as I leafed through an old photo album (Another sign of too much time on my hands.) I was struck by a different way of expending a little energy.

It seems to me a given… matter what our age…..that in the course of our lifetime every one of us has created, and are still creating, our own unique gallery of memories……the sort I sometimes revisit in my October and November reveries. And embedded in those recollections, if we take the time to seek them out, are hints of lessons that life has taught us along the way.

It was that notion of “lessons learned” notion that set me thinking. Whether we are young or old, we have learned lots of things along the way……though probably not as much as we like to think we have. So, what if I was asked to recite one of the more important of those “lessons learned”? Could I do that? And if I was to ask that question of you……how would you answer?

As you might imagine, before this is over I am hoping to hear your response to that question. But first it seems fair that I offer an answer of my own. What important life lesson have I learned in the sixty-six years since South Salem High turned me loose on the world?


That lesson, simply stated, is this….”In the course of a lifetime my definition of success has changed dramatically.” 

I grew up in a family business, certain that commercial success would provide the future I wanted. I had aced my college business studies, even sniffed the rarified air of Stanford Graduate Business School. How high could I go? What trophies awaited me and my family?

Alas, the better question would have been “How high did I want to go?”  Except for the plentiful opportunities to sooth my wanderlust, the normal “success” perks that people strive for were seldom my motivation. It was something more than that which had me and my family bouncing around for years…..looking for answers I never quite found.

Turns out I was a slow learner. It would not be until well into retirement, when I started writing my stories, that it finally felt as though I had found the place I was meant to be. I had begun that storytelling odyssey by staring at a blank page. I could have filled that space with any sort of story. So where did I allow my muse to lead me?

It did not take long for the truth of it to emerge. I was telling a story about a pair of October Years fellows and the special people in their lives…..the ones who made it all worthwhile. Years before, as a young, gung-ho business warrior, ready to take on the world, I would  surely have been drawn to more urgent and tangible forms of action.

That “blank page” moment was sixteen years ago. Looking back on the dozen novel-length stories I have created since then it is plain to see that I was drawn toward the telling of what I accepted as real-life, relational subjects… opposed to the who-dun-it, adventure-filled escapist tales others tell.

To be sure, those tales do not deal with the intense, salacious tempest of youthful romance. (Hurray for all that in its proper time and place.) Instead I have explored the settled affirmation of late-life relationships, evolving at their own age-appropriate pace.

It seems to me that in the course of creating a story the storyteller, any storyteller, is not only drawing on lessons he or she has learned. They are actually reinforcing the reality of those lessons in their own mind…. making them more real and impactful in the living of their life.

On a personal level, I have been fortunate enough to experience more than sixty years of that relational reality. I understand its appeal and importance. Still it was surprising, even enlightening, to see how natural it was for my storytelling to follow that road less-traveled. I count my settling on that seldom-addressed form of relational fictions as a satisfying and productive lesson learned.


There you have my stumbling attempt to put an important life lesson into words. That was easy enough. Now comes the harder part…..asking you to step forward and do the same…..convincing you to tell us about your own “life lesson” learned. I’m hoping that some of you will be willing to do that. I’m guessing you have the time. It need not be as wordy and rambling as I tend to be. The only right answer is the one that is real to you.

So….before you pass on this, please take a moment to consider the possibilities. If you are a young man or woman, in the early stages of your life journey, consider the lessons you have learned so far.….. knowing that those youthful conclusions are not cast in stone, but subject to change in the years ahead.

On the other hand if, like me, you are dealing with late-life, I happen to believe that at our age we have become living repositories of “Elder Wisdom,” however we choose to define that characteristic. Years ago we set out on our personal life adventure…..each of us following our own unique path. Along the way we have seen a lot, lived a lot, and learned a lot. Yet how often have we paused to recount the lessons learned over the years, and the ways they have served us?

Yet no matter what our age, why should we be timid about sharing what seems real to us? If we believe those lessons, and accept them as real, why not share what they mean to us? Odds are you will find that the mere act of rethinking your personal history, and its impact on the person you have become, is an affirming, instructive, even liberating experience.


There you have it……..another “far out, join the conversation” possibility for you to consider. Chances are no one has ever asked you to deal with a task quite like this. May I suggest it is time for you to take that bold step, for yourself and the ones in your life who deserve to know more about what you have learned over the years.

It seems to me that a lesson learned is not simply a matter of knowledge, a set of facts we have come to understand. To have truly learned a lessons means we have lived the truth of it and made it a part of our response to real-life situations. It has become an arrow in our quiver.

And especially if you are one of us October/November folks you have lived in a world your grandchildren can scarcely comprehend, any more than we can comprehend theirs. In the course of a lifetime you have created your own personal brand of Elder Wisdom. You have family and friends who deserve to hear or read that legacy in your own words. I hope you will accept the challenge of sharing a bit of it with us too.

Think of it as a new form of late-life “Becoming.” After all, how often have you been offered the opportunity to help create a collaborative collage that all of us can read, enjoy…..and learn from.


But what if no-one steps up to join the conversation? Will I be embarrassed if mine is the only post? Not really. If it is another of my clinkers and there are no responses, that’s okay. At this stage of the game I don’t mind looking silly. That’s happened often enough. Besides, I can always chalk it up as another life lesson learned.

But hopefully you will choose to reply. If so, feel free to use this blog site’s “Comment” section, or if you would rather, simply reply to the email you received. Either way, I will compile any responses to share with the others.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Doing what works for us


Disclaimer- - -This bit of fluff will be as personal and self-centered as anything you will ever read in these pages……self-serving, but true.

              Doing what works for us

Imagine yourself being old, but active….in an age-appropriate way. Though you can no longer do everything you once did, there are some things you can still do, and in your mind, still do well. That is especially important when those activities include exercising what have become our strongest muscles ……our imagination and creativity.

Given the luxury of retirement time, those hours we once devoted to earning a paycheck, many of us have turned to what we consider creative pursuits, using our imagination to nurture interests we now have time to develop.

I know folks my age who are able to turn an ordinary rock into a piece of art….dissecting an ordinary-looking piece of stone, revealing the beauty hidden inside, then polishing it until it glows.

Odds are you know a gardener, (I do), often a well-experienced lady, who each spring sets out to create her own living, growing, and blooming masterpiece……turning an ordinary plot of ground into a loving patch of flowering beauty. In spite of the aches and pains her season-long ups and downs will produce, there will be no holding her back.

Or perhaps you know a master worker of wood, that fellow who has learned over time to transform plain and unremarkable slabs of lumber into artistic and/or functional results.

The creative possibilities available to those senior artisans are nearly endless..…..sewing, knitting, ceramics, painting, cooking, genealogy….. all that and more. 

Every one of those folks, no matter what their chosen interest, shares a single-minded attraction to the path they have chosen. Yet even though the rest of us appreciate, congratulate, and delight in their results, it would be wrong to assume that our acceptance is the craftsman or craftswoman’s primary motivation.

Each of them has found his or her way of remaining engaged with life….. investing their time and energy in something that has become a part of them….. something, however modest, that provides a reason to carry on. 

They are following their personal late-life passion, doing what they find satisfying, to please themselves. Perhaps you can relate to an interest that pulls you along like that. That sort of motivation is especially important in this time of lockdown, quarantine, and isolation.  


Now, with that wordy and rambling introduction I have arrived at what I consider the meat of this meal.

I have spent my retirement hours creating October Years stories….what I consider to be age-appropriate tales, dealing with the all-too-human desire for compatible companionship, and the all-too-human tendency for those late-life pursuits to become stumbling, sometimes humorous adventures.

I like to think that over time, in the course of a dozen such stories, my own ‘stumbling’ storytelling efforts have improved. I have made the point before in these pages….I like the stories I tell, and just like the aging craftsmen noted above, I am proud of the results.  That is especially important to me, since I have expended that time and effort mainly to please myself. In the process of creating something from nothing I have experienced the creative satisfaction I was seeking.

The stories I tell are not the stuff of best-sellers. I know that. True, a few folks have gone all in, buying paperback copies, and I appreciate that. But mainly I hope the stories are worthy of the readers’ enjoyment…..perhaps well-enough received to prompt a recommendation to friends, letting them know a particular book is worth checking out.

After all, as modest as they may be, there is no denying my interest in having these stories read and hopefully appreciated by others. What can be wrong with that? It was that interest that led to my current, admittedly-unorthodox serialization experiment.

While all my stories have always been available in Kindle and paperback versions on my Amazon Author’s Page, I realize that unless a potential reader knows, and cares, where they can be found those stories are not likely to be read. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that posting these books here on this October Years blog, chapter by chapter….using email and Facebook to let readers know they are here….has proved to be an effective way of sharing them.

By the time I post the last chapter of Long Way Home, a couple weeks from now, I will have spent the better part of five months serializing the Harris brothers’ story. It appears that at least a couple dozen of you have made that journey with me. I have appreciated your company.

So, for those rather convoluted reasons, when the last chapter of Long Way Home is posted I plan to continue this serializing experiment by beginning a new book. Since I have enjoyed telling the stories this way a new book will provide another chance for me to indulge myself, while hopefully enticing some of you to join the journey with me.

The book in question will be Going Home….a hopefully tasteful tale of clashing generations and family dysfunction….all of it served with a healing touch. The book’s back-cover tease reads like this ………..

Going Home can trigger pleasant memories and intimidating recollections. For Tom Fedder it will produce only dread. For decades he has avoided any reason to revisit his Tanner roots. But now a last visit is necessary.

He plans an under-the-radar return to arrange the sale of his late-mother’s home, collect a few things, and make his escape.

On his own he could do all that. But in the company of his native-American step-son, Rick, those plans are in jeopardy. Overnight Going Home will become more complicated than expected.”


Now with that in mind, let’s see if we can finish sorting out the Harris brothers’ stumbling Long Way Home adventures.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Revisiting La Paz

Where does one find the Peace they seek?

It can be unsettling, the way our recollections of long-ago events, seemingly insignificant  at the time, can make their way back to the front of our mind, years after the fact.

For instance....what was it that prompted the “out-of-body” experience I remember so vividly? That was five years ago….yet the memories remain as clear and real as the day they were made.


My sleep was restless….dozing in fits and starts. The snug restraining straps, pulled tight across my stomach, left me unable to shift to a more comfortable position. It would be days before “comfortable” was a part of the equation.

My thin hospital gown, wet with feverish perspiration, was sticky and limiting. For an instant I was vaguely aware of the night nurse standing beside the bed, scanning the narrow printout from the dimly-lit monitor. 

As she moved closer her touch on my shoulder had me jerking away, a movement that triggered the protesting pain of a newly reset broken arm, a few broken ribs, and a collapsed lung….reminders of my not-so-gentle tumble from a falling ladder.

Actually, it hurt to be awake. That much I understood. Yet before I could cast those disjointed sensations into a meaningful whole, my thoughts were retreating into the inviting comfort of another, more welcoming reality. I reached for the morphine pump clipped to my gown.....pressed the button once, then again. 

For a few seconds I felt myself stranded in the real world….between sleep and medication. Then a fresh wave of narcotic relief wrapped me in a blanket of well-being and I settled back against the raised bed, once again beyond the reach of pain….into a state I can best describe as "Peace.".

Of course I had read fanciful stories of ghostly, disconnected souls floating effortlessly above their own body, watching as the doctors frantically worked to bring them back. Invariably those remembered accounts spoke of a long tunnel that led toward a bright, white light. 

Though I don’t recall wondering what might lay beyond the tunnel, most of those stories hinted at some matter of unearthly delight. Yet, try as I might, I could never have expected to find something as welcoming as La Paz…. Spanish for “The Peace.” 

That’s right. I had made my escape from the stifling constraints of the ICU. I had been transported through a morphine-induced haze to the inviting afternoon warmth of Baja California. 

There in welcoming, small-town La Paz, I was sitting alone at a sidewalk table outside the not-so-busy Los Arcos Cantina when the smiling, dark-skinned waitress returned with my second, or perhaps it was the third, cool Cervaza Corona. Across the wide Malecon, where locals strolled along the waterfront, the soft waves of the inner bay made lapping sounds on the shoreline.

Without knowing how I got there, I sensed myself in the midst of that 1960’s scene, a time when The Baja Road….the primitive highway that led to La Paz….had exerted a hard-to-explain hold on me. 

The original Baja Road was eight hundred miles of bad road…...washboard sand, jagged boulders, and mile after mile of cactus….the absolute epitome of backroad travel. At that time, in my young mind, La Paz was the oasis at the southern end of the road….a pleasant respite from the dusty highway.

That was a time before the glory years of Baja tourism….a time when Cabo San Lucas was still a scruffy fishing village, and Todos Santos was populated by peasant farmers. In my Oregon mind the entire southern end of the Baja peninsula had an "old worldly" feel. 

Truth to tell that was also a time when I was on more or less intimate terms with the infamous Baja Road, having ridden the length of it in 1962 on a Honda 50 trail bike, and driven it again in 1967 with Roma and our sons, Adam and Marc, in a four-wheel drive Ford pickup. 

By then I had been captured by the wild, unspoiled spirit of that time and place. Indeed, there was a time when I was so attached to the romance of Baja that it felt as though it was calling me home….permanently.

The initial attraction, the memories that kept drawing me back to that end-of-the-world locale, were products of the honeymoon week Roma and I spent at Los Cocos, La Paz' swankiest resort in those not-so-swanky days. 

Though we had no way of knowing it at the time, we were at the forefront of what would become a full-fledged tourist invasion….which would in time overwhelm, then eradicate the slow-paced, old-world charm that made pre-invasion La Paz so appealing.

Looking back I can still sense those first timid steps in my search for an authentic home….a place where Roma and I could create the life and the family we wanted. We would revisit the Baja and La Paz several times in the years that followed….with our own family and once with my parents.

Each return seemed to reinforce the unspoken knowing that I had found what was meant to be my place in the world. 

How serious was my enthusiasm? During our last visit there my Dad and I spent several days researching available properties in and around La Paz, looking for land where we could build and operate a modest resort hotel.

By then the notion of La Paz as home had taken hold. In hindsight I can see that it was an inherited tendency….one that father and son were pursuing together, each of us feeding the other’s dreams. 

And all the while, as Dad and I chased our hopeful, if impractical vision, Roma and my mother stood quietly aside, hoping we would not commit to something that could not be undone. They too had dreams….none of which included La Paz.

I suppose it is fair to say that my La Paz infatuation died a natural death. When Adam and Marc started school, and Amy, then Terry joined our ranks winter travel, the best time of the year to visit that arid southland, became harder to accommodate.

In time the original sand and rock road, where we once averaged nine miles an hour over five days of travel, was paved….making way for recreational vehicles and spendy tourist stops. By then the primitive allure of the Baja outback was fading.

The things we remembered most of all were growing more distant….picking wildflowers after a rare spring rain, looking for sea shells along a deserted Pacific beach, being followed around the town plaza in San Ignacio as young Mexican girls crept up behind our tow-headed sons, Adam and Marc, reaching out to touch the first blonde hair they had ever seen…. wondering if it was real.

They were seductive, those fifty year-old recollections…..the ones that once had me believing that could be our home….the ones that must have drawn me through the long operating-room tunnel into the brilliant white light of Baja sunshine, complete with a cold cervaza waiting for me in sunny La Paz. 

I must have been replaying my acceptance of that reality when the cold stethoscope the nurse pressed against my chest jolted me awake. 

Though at that moment I had no recollection of a long tunnel or bright lights in the course of my morphine-induced travels, I can clearly recall my awareness of the unfamiliar cast on my arm, and still-fresh thoughts of peaceful La Paz in the front of my mind….as though I was waking from a well-dreamed dream. 

That must have been a "long-tunnel" experience. Right? What else could have made it so real?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A quarantine travel fix

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit …..the wife thinks I sometimes “live in the past.” And if is true, I plead guilty as charged.

I suppose for some of us it comes with age. Perhaps its a sign of the brain turning to mush. Maybe it has to do with the way 2020 has turned into 2021. Whatever the reason, for folks like me digging through a seldom-visited closet is apt to turn up surprises….. some of them pleasant, some you had hoped to forget,

In my case the unexpected find was a single box, one I hadn’t seen in years. Though it was heavy to lift, it was definitely worth the effort. Once I had it off the shelf I could have sorted through the contents in a matter of minutes and been done with it. Truth is, however, it has taken me days, and I’m still not done. Why was it so hard to hurry through those alluring contents?

What I’m talking about was a box of pamphlets, guide books and brochures…..scenic photos and seductive descriptions…..souvenirs of places we have visited in the course of our travels. It was unexpected sight of those long-unseen treasures that managed to grab my attention and jog my memory.

It was a bit startling to learn that the resulting recollections were as vivid and appealing as the first time we saw those places. Small wonder it was so easy to let my mind wander back to those moments …. the ones I wish I could relive again.  

What kind of places, you might ask. And what makes them so special?  It took only a few minutes to realize those memories are memorable because we were there…..Roma and I alone…..or with the whole family. 

That’s how it works, you know. Your personal history is special because it is yours. You are the one who can remember and relate. No matter how spectacular or how mundane they may be, your recollections are real because you have lived them. And you are the one who has earned the right to assign them the value you choose.

So what were these long-neglected souvenirs that sent me off on my own mind-travels? What sort of reminders have that kind of power? Let me offer a few examples…….knowing very well that these are my memories. They may work for you. But on the other hand, you have your own selection of emotional triggers that can take you back to special places and people whenever you choose

So here we go…..leafing through a stack of twenty to fifty year old after page of alluring photos and vivid descriptions……all of them reminders of special times and places in our family’s life..…especially the year we lived in England and the times we have returned there.

Winchester” - It is so full of history, dating to Roman times and before. We made our home there …..encountering our first English supermarket, sending the kids to school, and making friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Winchester Cathedral” - In the heart of our hometown, with more history that we appreciated. When the song became popular we sang along.

The New Forest” - Just down the road from home, full of quiet country scenes.....Beaulieu Abbey, Lyndhurst, and the New-Forest pony poking its head into our caravan, hoping for a handout.

Cotswolds in Colour” - Dozens of striking photos of the country’s garden spot. (Though actually the whole nation qualifies as that.) We remember Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Shakespeare country, and Warwick Castle, where we woke up one morning to learn that Elvis had died.

Beautiful Somerset” - Home of my Tucker lineage, where we walked ancient burial grounds and had tea with the couple who lived in the old family home….complete with tales of John Tucker’s ghost, who still lived there.

Bath” - It’s everything Rick Steves says it is….from the Crescent to the Roman baths. Works best if you like a mob of tourists.

Picturesque Cornwall” - My favorite corner of the UK. I’m a sucker for tiny harbors hidden deep in the Poldark coastline. Also home to some of Roma’s Shorey ancestors.

North Devon” - Visited the rugged Lorna Doone country, and the Ilfracombe casino that cost me a few quid.

Bodmin Moor” - Hauntingly beautiful, including the hidden village of Warleggan….home to the first of Roma’s Shoreys, and the church where the pastor preached to cardboard cutouts.

Westminster Abby” - Is beautiful and stately …..a virtual feast of English history, too much to absorb in the single visit.

The Cabinet War Rooms” - Churchill’s London hideout during WWII, a small underground city, safe from the Blitz bombing.

Wesley’s Chapel” - We attended a Sunday morning service there, a quiet time surrounded by reminders of John Wesley’s Methodism.

The Lake District” - It’s as pretty as they claim, though our lasting impression was of wall-to-wall tourists. (Like us)

City of York” - Is so full of history….walking atop the ancient city walls, the stunning cathedral, and a warming lunch with old friends.

Herriot Country” - A tribute to the James Herriot stories and Masterpiece series. A detailed guidebook to the Yorkshire moors and dales, my other favorite places in England. (Along with all the others.) 

Hadrian’s Wall” - Roman history in the far north of England. I’ll remember it for the time spent there with my parents.

Edinburgh” - I’m remembering the Military Tattoo, a summer night of pageantry, the Castle and the Royal Mile, and golf with the kids on the putting green next to Princess Street.

And there you have it, personal reminiscences of special times and places as triggered by a stack of old travel guides…..each of them still feeling just as real as the moments we first spent there. 

I’ve found it comforting that in today’s world of quarantine and travel bans there are no rules or restrictions limiting our access to that kind of time-warp travel…..the sort that allows a return to any time or place we can imagine.

Those were some of my favorite travels, and I am thankful for the opportunity to visit them again. I am also absolutely certain that you have your own special times and places to relive any time to you feel the urge to return there. 

So why not?  Don't let Covid hold you back.

Bon voyage.