Saturday, July 31, 2010

Happy Feast Day!

During the early decades of the sixteenth century, Ignatius of Loyola and John Calvin were both students in Paris.  In the summer of 2006, as I was finishing up my year with the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and making decisions about applying for seminary and the ordination process in the Presbyterian Church (USA), my husband and I spent several days in Paris, some of them staying in the same neighborhood in which both Ignatius and Calvin lived as students.  Supposedly their portraits hang next to each other in a former college and now government building (which was never open when we were around, as we spent our days wandering the city). We made a little pilgrimage one afternoon to the Chapel of the Martyrs in Montmarte, the place in which Ignatius and his early followers met and began to form themselves into the Society of Jesus, and I chuckled at the multiplicity of juxtapositions.  In the 1530s, Catholics and Protestants in Paris and elsewhere were at odds with one another; I don't think too many people were looking for commonalities.  But a few years later I would, indeed, be a seminary student doing exactly that, pursuing an independent study on the spiritual experiences and understandings of both men. 

Today is Ignatius' Feast Day in the Catholic Church, and so I'm focused on him.  At the certification ceremony for our spiritual direction program last year, each of the members of our class offered a few remarks. At that time,  I said that I was moved by having become part of a tradition handed down from Ignatius to his first Jesuit brothers to others through the centuries to, eventually, my own director, and from him to me (among many), and now from me to others.  Today, in further celebration, I offer this moving story from a fellow blogger, someone who also still looks for God in all things despite loss and sadness.  

Happy Feast Day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I so wanted to post a picture of my birthday party 50 years ago today: my Sally Draper credentials.  My 4-year-old brother and I are sitting at a card table with our great-grandparents and in the center is a many-tiered cake with a huge number 7 atop it.  I'm sure there's a companion snapshot somewhere of my mother bringing the cake out,  but I can't find it, and I can't get the scanner to work.  So all I have to offer is a photo of a dress that looks pretty much like the one I was wearing.

I think it was a very, very happy time in all of our lives.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good Reading Today

It's heating and humidifying up again, my jaw aches from a replacement filling yesterday, and I basically have nothing whatever to contribute to the world.  But that hasn't stopped anyone else:

A brilliant exploration of the doctrine of original sin, via Miranda Priestly (pun intended?)/Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

Planning your next trip to Rome?  Have to do it from home?  Addicted to Renaissance art?  Check out these links.

A few days ago, I discovered a fantastic blog ~ filled with all kinds of riches.  As you know, I took a Hauerwas class last spring, and for obvious reasons I spend a lot of time thinking about what ministry is (and what seminary education was for me).  Here's a post that combines it all.

And finally, staring me in the face at the grocery (hey, it's air-conditioned) a couple of hours ago: Did your kindergarten teacher matter?  More than you might have imagined.

How could I have known when I was sleeping on my little rug in Ohio (first half of kindergarten) or drawing gulls over the the ocean in Florida (second half), it would all coalesce into Meryl Streep, Michaelangelo, and the language of faith?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sally Draper II

So no one is interested in Miss Sally?

She's going to grow up to be a pastor, you know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sally Draper

As I said in my own comments last night, the opener to Season 4 of Mad Men was a dark, dark episode and ~ Sally Draper may be the barometer to watch.  Little Sally has been almost invisible for the previous three seasons, other than as the object of Betty's excuse for mothering  ~  but suddenly she's grown into a self-aware child-woman, trying to call her father in the middle of the night ~ both last night and in the preview for next week ~to express her frustration at the new "family" arrangements.

I got interested, so I googled Sally Draper and came up with some information on the actress, Kiernan Shipka, who turns 11 this year.  She's just the age I was in 1964, which I wrote about in my previous post, and she's dealing with some of the same issues, which I didn't write about.

I had a confusing family life, too, although mine involved a dead mother rather than a philandering father, and a new stepmother rather than the reverse gender.  But I do remember that era well ~ a time in which children were presumed to be without emotional reactivity and were subject to adult decision-making about marital and living arrangements with barely a moment's warning.

It will be interesting to watch Sally as she reflects the conflicts of the grown-ups while growing into her own adolescence.  What a tough time that was to be a girl!  Neither my mother nor my first stepmother were college graduates, but my father's mother was, like Betty, a Seven Sisters alum, and I inherited the blend  of expectations that in the 60s were communicated as a charge to become a well-educated partner to an executive or professional husband.  The advantage to being without a mother of my own, according to the book Motherless Daughters, was the chance to grow up without being overly burdened by traditional expectations for women, there being no one woman as invested in my future as a mother would have been.  The disadvantages were somewhat more numerous.

I would say that Sally faces an interesting blend of expectations.  Her mother is ~ well, Betty: a stunningly beautiful child.  Her father is ~ well, Don: a man who cannot have a mature relationship with any woman with whom he sleeps, but has interesting friendships with professional women (and with the woman he married after stealing her war-dead husband's identity and then divorced to marry Betty).  Talk about  mixed messages!

Yeah, I'd say we should watch Sally.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mad Men Season Four Begins Tonight!

One of the things I love about this, my most favorite series, is how carefully everyone connected with it guards its secrets.  There are many movies and tv shows I have never bothered to see because the previews have given the whole thing away.

But this morning's paper does say that the new season opens around Thanksgiving of 1964, which has got me wondering ~ what were we all doing then?

I was 11, which means that I was in Mr. Curran's 6th grade class ~ in the one year of school that I really, really loved, because Mr. Curran ignored the fact that our tiny rural school had no science curriculum to speak of, and taught us about amoebas, euglenas, and paramecium.

It was also the first year of endless arguments with my stepmother over my attire and appearance ~ the year that some girls began to wear hose and lipstick.   It's hard to believe that we imagined the girdle to be a desirable undergarment!  I guess this was my idea of how I should look:

And it was the year I fell in love for the first time, with Toby Adams, the smartest boy in my class.  Since The Addams Family was on television, my main role model was Morticia, whom I planned to become when Toby and I got married and both became brain surgeons (that science class influence was pretty strong):

And lest you think we were all about love and marriage and careers, let me remind you that Bewitched was also a hit that year.  My friend Sarah and I spent our recesses  dunking basketballs (we staged a fruitless demonstration for the institution of a girls' basketball team) and hopefully twitching our noses.

We were little girls in penny loafers and pleated skirts, playing basketball on a crumbling blacktop in farm country, far from the glamorous women we longed to emulate ~ but we were full of hope.

It will be interesting to see if either the Addams or Stephens families makes it into Mad Men's  advertising portfolio.

What do you remember from 1964?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Decisions, Decisions (Friday Five)

Here's a fun one from Songbird (and you should go to the original for the kitty picture):

"Since I've been in the midst of a discernment process, I've done a lot of reflecting on how we make decisions. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to reveal a dark story about a poor decision, or a self-flagellating story about an embarrassing one. Let's keep it simple and go with five word pairs. Tell us which word in the pair appeals to you most, and after you've done all five, give us the reason why for one of them.

Here they are:

1) Cake or Pie
2) Train or Airplane
3) Mac or PC
4) Univocal or Equivocal
5) Peter or Paul"

1) Cake
2) Planes here; trains in Europe.
3) PC.
4) Equivocal.
5) Peter.

5) Please!  FP over TJ! 

(In real life, I am close to the middle on both scales. But if I could choose . . . ).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Going to Church Doesn't Make You a Christian . . .

any more than standing in a garage makes you a car."

So one of my friends posted on FB this morning.  I've read it before, but I still chuckled, and then I started to think about it.

True enough: if you stand in a garage, you won't become a car.  But ~ assuming that there is a car in there with you ~ you might learn something about cars.  What they look like, feel like, smell like (ok, not me on the last one ~ but most people have a sense of smell).  If you decide to co-operate with or participate in the car (depending upon whether your car theology is Catholic or Protestant) by hopping in and going for a drive, you'll find out how a car sounds and what it can do.  How it can help you and what its limitations are. It can transform your life by moving you 600 miles in a day; it can completely mess up your life via a damaged transmission or broken clutch.

I don't have to drag out the analogy, do I?  If you stand in a church, your senses might tune in to what it is to be a Christian.  If you decide to go for a drive, whether by standing up and singing during worship or by taking the big leap to make a retreat or go on a mission trip, you'll learn a little bit about what Christianity is and does.  If you hang out in a church long enough, you'll discover its transformative powers and its limitations.

The astonishing thing is that ~ while no matter how long you stand in a garage or how thoroughly you get to know your car, you will never, in fact, become a car ~   if you go to a church you might, in fact, become a Christian. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Kinda long, but not too long, and worth reading. 

Bonus Question for Churchgoers: Is there a flag in your church sanctuary? 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Poetry of Our Lives Redux: Some of My Pieces

It seems that several of us memorized the first lines of the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales at one point or another in our educational careers!  I started writing down some of the bits and pieces of poetry that figure in some of my thinking on a regular basis, and discovered that I have a lot of first lines.  I guess that Beatles songs are the only genre I've memorized in their entirety!

Take a guess, or add your own:

In the middle of my life I found myself in a dark wood . . .

Because I do not hope to turn again . . .

Hope is the thing with feathers . . . 

After great pain a formal feeling comes . . .

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting . . .

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy . . .

Words, words, words . . .

A cold coming we had of it . . .

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame . . .

Those are pearls that were his eyes . . . (you can get credit for two here)

I will take a crowbar and pry out the broken pieces of God in me . . .

[Life] is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing . . .

(Image: John W. Waterhouse, Miranda in The Tempest - 1916)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Conversation III: Let Go Your Grasp

 Michelle and I continue our guest blogging discussion of Into the Silent Land.  One of the things Marty Laird emphasizes is the use of a "prayer word," a sort of repetitive mantra, as a means by which to diminish the distractions that inevitably fill our mind.  I asked Michelle whether we might write about that -- focus on the focus, I suppose -- and she responded with a letter:  

Dear Robin,

I find to my dismay that you are counting on me to wax eloquent on the subject of prayer words.  I will have a hard time topping your pithy summing up - “This is a lot more confusing and difficult than it sounds.” -  since I entirely agree, and wonder if I'm not going to cloud the issue more. 

So I'm going to admit right off the bat that I have never settled into a single prayer word, or even the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner), all advice to the contrary notwithstanding.  I tend to wake up each morning with a snippet of a prayer or a single line of Scripture, usually from a psalm, though not exclusively, bouncing around my head.

For a long time I thought I was a failure on the prayer word front, or at the very best a mere contemplative dilettante bouncing from phrase to phrase.  It was the fortuitous discovery of Gabriel Bunge OSB's practical down to earth book on prayer [1] in the stacks at Wernersville that helped me realize that I'm not a failure, but perhaps a throwback.

Originally these prayers were "hurled quickly like spears." They were meant to be short and to the point, not dulled by hanging onto them too hard or too long, and Evagrius Pontikos advises that they be aimed directly at the distracting demon.  In much the same fashion Jesus, tempted by Satan in the desert, hit back with single, appropriate lines from the Scripture.  For Evagrius the prayer word was less the refuge some authors describe - a sort of muffling veil you pull over yourself to hide you from the distractions or the distractions from you - and more of a weapon to beat off the distractions, or better yet, pin them squirming to the wall so they can't return!  Your image of the prayer word as a shepherd's crook quite neatly captures both these senses, I think.  The crook pulls us back from the brink again and again, while it's not a bad weapon to shake at a wolf or crack over the head of a snake.

Too, I like Laird's image of the prayer word as a "vaccine" - a small dose of what ails you when you are distracted - and the advice that follows: it doesn't really matter what word you choose.  It's not about the "spiritual buzz" you get picking one or using it.  In this vein, I would think "to do list" would be far better at vaccinating me against distraction than "grace" or "Jesus"!  I think we can be too fastidious about prayer, sometimes; too high-minded for a people tied to the humility of the cross.  So no way am I going to laugh at your choice of "grass" as your prayer word!

I split the difference between the older tradition of picking an appropriate phrase to hurl at specific distractions, and sticking with a single phrase as Laird (and most others) advise.  Instead I stick with my snippets.  In part it's a way to "pray unceasingly" with this tidbit that rises again and again even when I'm not formally praying.  Of late I've begun to suspect it's also a catalyst for a kind of detachment from prayer words when I sit in prayer.  I spend so much of my day sorting through piles of words, looking for the pieces that fit just right, like pieces into a complex jigsaw puzzle, that the picking of prayer word, and the repeating of it, can be distracting.  Instead I seem to let my unconscious consult with the Holy Spirit and dispense a word or two for me, which I take up in humility and gratitude. 

Snippets may stay a day, a few hang around for a week or a month or more, but I've learned not to try to hurry their departure, no matter how repetitive or unappealing (or appealing!) I find them.  I find that it's best if I don't treat these phrases or words as koans -  puzzles to be solved -  but use them as hallway runners, quieting my footsteps as I move from door to door, or spears to puncture the particular distractions that are haunting me.  I never have to strain to recall the phrase - it's automatic; the changing nature does not cloud the discipline of always returning here.

You wrote of praying with the phrase from Psalm 46, "Be still and know that I am God."  and turning the word "know" around in your head as you walked.  Patient Spiritual Director once suggested I pray with this verset, paring it back word by word: Be still and know that I am. Be still and know.  Be still.  Be.    But why not strip it back to know?  Or and  for that matter? 

I prefer Robert Alter's translation of this line, "Let go, and know that I am God."  He points out that the Hebrew verb is a bit of a surprise here; it carries the connotation of relaxing your grip on something, rather than the freezing of motion.  And in the end, of course, that's what must happen with the prayer word at what Laird calls the third doorway, release your grip on it, stop wielding it as a tool, stop immersing yourself in it, just let it go and let what happens, happen.

My most potent recent experience of that release was on my visit to the old novitiate at Wernersville last week.  I was floating in the pool, seeking relief from the heat, and decided to experiment with praying in that place, rather than get out and sit for a meditation on the side of the pool. I began, then quickly realized that I was no longer paying attention to floating.  Panic surfaced, until I realized I wasn't in fact sinking.  The whole period ended up being this continual "letting go my grasp" on my need to do something to stay afloat -  in both body and spirit. 

Which perhaps brings me to my next question - at one point as we were planning this conversation, you said that you found the section on the breath to be less helpful to you.      It may be the scientist in me that is intrigued about the connections between the body and prayer;  certainly the very bodied experience in the pool continues to play out in my prayer.   What about the body in all this?

Here’s hoping for some relief from the desert heat!


[1] Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition - it's not as smoothly written or as dryly humorous as Laird's book can be, but like Into the Silent Land is deeply practical, straightforward discussion of the contemplative life and well grounded in the Church's tradition, particularly that of the desert hermits

[2] Augustine reports that the desert mystics used these phrases -  quondam modo iaculatas -  which can translate as “hurled like so many javelins” though Laird uses the translation “shot like arrows”.  I have to say I prefer the imagery of the less lady-like spear-thrusts, which may be a bit bloodthirsty for someone who claims to seek detachment!

(Image: Evagrius of Pontus, 4th century Egytian monk, as he appears on his Facebook page!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Poetry of Our Lives

As a way of dealing with the heat, I've watched more television in the past few weeks than usual ~ no AC, so immobility is a primary goal.

Yesterday afternoon I watched most of an episode of Law and Order Criminal Intent.  It's a quirky show, very dark psychologically and no glitz or glamor for the actors. I was struck yesterday by the layers of Detective Goren's character, layers being peeled off like an onion.  

The guilty parties were a young couple trying to cover up the death of their baby; the husband was a wanna-be poet. Goren noted at one point that a poem the husband claimed to have written was actually one of Christina Rosetti's.  And at the end of the show, reading the verse the husband had left with his daughter's remains, Goren commented, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning -- he can't even come up with something original for his own daughter."

The intriguing juxtaposition, of course is that this hard-nosed and psychologically astute investigator has such an easy and wide-ranging familiarity with poetry classics.

I studied a lot of poetry in school, and I still read quite a bit of it.  But I can seldom do that ~ identify a fragment in casual conversation.  Although today, reading a new book that Michelle sent to me, I took in a sentence and said immediately to myself, "Dylan Thomas."

I do have  a few of my own favorites, though  ~ bits and pieces that occasionally come out of my mouth or appear on my computer.  A little Dante, a little Mary Oliver.  Perhaps a bit more T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson.  Shakespeare, of course, but mostly from Macbeth and Hamlet.  Some John Donne, some Anne Sexton, some Hopkins.

Detective Goren's Browning quote?  A paraphrase, but one I plan to remember, for obvious reasons: 

"You are held not by death, but by love."

What about you?  Do you have lines of poetry accessible to the immediate reaches of your mind and heart?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Retreat Suggestions

A friend is off to her first 8-day silent retreat, and she asked me what she should take.  I thought others might be interested in what (slightly edited) occurred to me, and might have some ideas of their own:

A really good novel or two, not fluff but not War and Peace either, because you need some time immersed in something completely different.

A couple of prayer books if you have some that you like and you want to maybe impose a little order on yourself.

A beautiful new journal.

A camera, your knitting, art materials, whatever it is that you need for some playtime.

Extra pillows. I have never been to a retreat house that has adequate pillow resources.

Whatever you need for walking or yoga if you do those things.

A degree of openness and availabilty to the Spirit that is more than usual for you!

Anyone else? 

PS: I forgot: A swimming suit?  Longtime readers may remember the humor I found in the silent swimming in the much-appreciated pool at Guelph a few summer ago when it was in the 90s all week ~ and how it led to other thoughts on encountering God in silence.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Last Hike

So The Lovely Daughter and I decided to hike up to The Rock, a great place from which to look out over camp.


The signs look so cheerful and optimistic.  But you hike pretty much up for a long way and then you see:

So you hike up some more and then, there it is ~ hmmm, still a ways:

And so, you hike up closer, to where a series of ropes begins by which, theoretically, you will hoist yourself up:

And then, if you're me, there are no more pictures for awhile, because you are busy falling and making sure that the next week you will still be finding bruises in the most impossible places, but eventually you reach your goal:

There's camp down there!


I first went to camp the summer in which I turned ten. It wouldn't be my recommendation, that a 9-year-old girl who'd lost her mother and brother two years earlier, and had just acquired a new stepmother and step-siblings, be sent 400 miles away for two months ~ but camp probably saved my life or, at the very least, what was left of my childhood.  Gwynn Valley was designed as a non-competitive, nature-centered camp for young children, and for me it became a haven from family trauma and a source of freedom and joy.  We sent all of our children there, hoping that it would be a similar source of sustenance for them.

The international staff was a huge factor in propelling Josh to Rennes for a year of high school, his brother to Lyons and Barcelona during college summers, and their sister to Prague for a college semester.  Josh and The Lovely Daughter both returned to camp for several summers of employment.

It's an incredibly restorative place, much as it has been for 75 years this summer.  And, while I'm not one for finding experiences of a loved one's "presence" after they have died ~ in the nearly 50 years since she died, I have not once sensed the presence of my mother ~  as we drove into camp last week, I did ~ I felt Josh everywhere.  And then I realized: he was there as a young boy, kicking a soccer ball and jumping through mountain streams; he was there as an adolescent, trying on his first real responsibilities as a contributor to an enterprise beyond himself; he was there as a young man, passing on to other boys what he had once enjoyed.  And he was there even before he was born, when his father and I rediscovered camp on a trip down to North Carolina when I was pregnant with him and his brother.    Why wouldn't the place be filled with his spirit?

Our girl is there now.  She turned five at camp when we went for a family week, she was an enthusiastic camper on her own a few years later, and this is her third (every other summer) venture as a counselor.  I'm glad that she has one more summer in such a gentle and loving community, surrounded by blue mountains and farm animals and sparkling streams.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Up on the Roof

James Taylor and Carole King put on an AMAZING show last night. As I said on FB, it's hard to believe that these voices have accompanied us for 40 years ~ our entire adult lives.  When I was a senior in boarding school, the sounds of JT's Fire and Rain album echoed constantly through the hallways, and when my friends and I graduated, Carole King's Tapestry album followed us into the summer and the separate lives that were suddenly ours after years of life together 24/7.  I still listen to JT all the time in the car.

Of course, there were moments.  I used to sing  "Rock-a-bye my sweet baby Josh" to my boy and he, like me, traversed the snow-covered turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston during his school years.  And of course, I always thought that I would see him again.  So there were portions of the concert in which I sat as still as I could in a cocoon of pain, not wanting to miss what I had to endure.

But on the whole, it was just a fabulous performance by two gifted and energized musicians and their talented band and back-up singers.  Most fun:  Photos on the screens from the 60s and 70s ~ when most folks had a lot more hair!

Don't miss this concert if it's still headed your way!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

But in God's . . . ?

I have been blessed for the past three years by a spiritual director of extraordinary resilience and perseverance.

Especially for the past two years.  

Yesterday my friend Karen, who lost her own beautiful son two years ago,  posted the following quote from Paul's letter to the Romans on Facebook:  "We are joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."  

I myself am not those things.  You see the problem.

Some days ago I was ruminating with my director on some of the good things that came into my life in the few years before Josh died.  The things that have probably saved my own life.  "What are the chances of my having had those encounters?" I wondered.  "Close to zero, I would think."

"Close to zero in human terms," he responded.  "But in God's . . . ?"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Just for Fun - Sliding Rock (Daily Photo 24)

When I was a little girl at camp in North Carolina, an afternoon at Sliding Rock was a highlight of the month.  I slipped up there early one morning last week for some photos, knowing that within a couple of hours it would be covered with screeching kids sliding into the icy pool at the bottom.  And adults, too ~ it hasn't been all that long since my own last slide down.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Looking Glass Falls (and Daily Photos 22-23)

When they were little, our three children played in the stream beyond the falls, sailing boats made of rhododendron leaves, and when they got a little older, they swam in the pool under the falls.

I was there Saturday morning, very early.  And when I turned to go, I saw that someone had made a small cairn across the tumbling water.  It guards Josh, I thought.  It waits there and watches.

It's a beautiful spot, and I could imagine Josh saying, "Thank you, Mom.  This was a very good place for all of us."  But . . . 

Don't say it's not really so bad.  Because it is.  Death is awful, demonic. ***  People sometimes think things are more awful than they really are.  Such people need to be corrected -- gently, eventually.  But no one thinks death is more awful than it is. 

~ Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Graveyard Fields (and Daily Photos 17-21: Mountains)

I don't remember how we discovered Graveyard Fields (origin of name unknown, but possibly due to a scattering of stumps reminiscent of gravestones) in the Pisgah Forest of North Carolina.  I do know that our first hike there involved the entire family in a gigantic thunder-and-lightning storm during which we ignored all safety rules in  our determination to make it the entire way to Upper Falls.

En route we discovered a stretch of river that flattens wide over a bed of pebbles ~ and that's actually my favorite part of the hike.  On sunny days when I've been out there alone, I've enjoyed just wading around in the river, and sitting on that huge rock to journal.  The one day I had last week was, unfortunately, not sunny.  But at least there was no sign of Thor and his thunderbolts.


I'm told that Second Falls is a favorite hangout of camp counselors on their days off ~ a great place in which to sit in the water all day long when the sun is hot.  

Josh and I have been all the way up to Upper Falls together, (it's about two miles from the trailhead but, given the terrain, hikes more like four) and have wandered around in the shallow riverbed, and so I took some of his ashes to each place.  Upper Falls was a little scary -- very slick on the rocks, and I had to slide most of the way down once I got up there.

Do you see how my life has changed, that I consider this to be normal behavior?

Back Home: A Quiet 4th

The Lovely Daughter and I took off last Thursday afternoon, spent an hour with my dad in southern Ohio, and made it to southern Kentucky while it was still light outside.

On Friday we reached Brevard NC in time for a delightful cafe lunch, and then I dropped her off at her camp for an afternoon of planning and orientation activities.  Bursts of delightful laughter filled the Gatehouse as she and other previous years' counselors recognized one another, and she seemed really happy to be "home."

I spent the afternoon hiking Graveyard Fields so that I could scatter some of Josh's ashes in places to which he and I had hiked several years ago ~ and, on other occasions, all five of us together, and sometimes me alone.  I got lost a couple of times, so it was three hours and five miles of rigorous (for me, anyway) hiking before I made my way back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and an eventual  dinner with my girl.  

Saturday I got up very early to scatter more ashes at Looking Glass Falls, where our children spent many happy summer afternoons playing in the pool and streams, and then the Counselor and I hit the trail for a hike and a climb and a scramble with ropes to a high overlook.  I think her brother would be happy with the places we found for him.  I myself am somewhat the worse for the wear, pretty bruised and scraped up from a slight tumble toward the top of the overlook, and stiff all over from two days spent hiking alone on mountain trails and through mountain streams, trying not to twist or sprain or break anything while in slippery and isolated locales.

I'll  post some pictures and some thoughts later.  Suffice it to say that, while I'm fine, I'm hiding out from 4th of July revelers today.

Image: Back for a 7th summer at camp!