For three years in a row I had the pleasure of heading to West Virginia with two friends for a girls get-away weekend. After breakfast, we would pack our lunch and head to that day’s designated hiking spot, and usually not return before late afternoon or sunset.
On one particular hike one of my friends asked what we each saw as our unique giftings. I actually wasn’t sure how to answer at this weird stage in my life, when empty nest syndrome has started to kick in bit by bit. One friend brought up my singing, which had always been my number one passion, but, that has changed through the years with raising a family. My other friend asked me about the healthy products I like to make for myself and friends and asked why I didn’t consider doing it as more than just a hobby.
Long story short, she and our other friend encouraged me to follow that passion, and two years later it has come to fruition! I really wasn’t sure about sharing it here on the blog because we have all been “spammed” by one business or another, and I truly care about my blogging friends. But, I also share what is going on in my life in other ways, and know that some of you are actually into this kind of lifestyle as well. And, hopefully it will explain why I don’t always keep up with reading and writing on here as much as before!
So, here’s to chasing a passion and turning it into a reality….
Frantically searching for yet one more mild-weathered day for cycling-as I typically do this time of year- only two days were left as possible options. Of course when left with just two days to cycle before winter shuts it all down, you make sure you find just the right place to finish out the season…and hopefully the right person to join you as well!
I was fortunate that one of my dearest friends, a newly-retired teacher of 32 years, was more than eager to go! After narrowing down the options of places, the clear winner was historic Oxford….Oxford Maryland that is. Now, historic to we Americans is laughable I know compared to Oxfords I can think of elsewhere, but 1683, the date of our Oxford’s official founding, is pretty impressive to us yanks.
The first place my friend and I stopped was the Robert Morris Inn.
Originally built as a shipping house in 1710, it began operations in 1800 as a full-time inn…the oldest full-service inn in America. Robert Morris, Sr., was an agent for a Liverpool shipping firm and greatly influenced the town’s growth. His son, Robert Morris, Jr., was known as “the financier of the Revolution.”
Walking on the historic, wide-planked floors, and gazing at the oversized wooden mantels over the well-worn brick fireplaces, we fell into a reverent awe as we imagined the conversations held in these very rooms. According to the brochure of the Inn…
Four of our 310 year old rooms were indeed slept in by Founding Father Robert Morris, George Washington and many other dignitaries of the day and since. Red brick fireplaces around which heated discussion on the arguments for independence from Britain took place and negotiations for sugar cane, tobacco and French wine worked out. Wood paneling, red brick fireplaces and oak timbers are all as they were 310 years ago, hand built by ships carpenters from locally acquired materials and the red bricks from England, used as ships ballast. One cannot get any more historic than this.
Other notable persons of the history of Oxford include: Jeremiah Banning, sea captain, war hero, and statesman; The Reverend Thomas Bacon, Anglican clergyman who wrote the first compilation of the laws of Maryland; Matthew Tilghman, known as the “patriarch of Maryland” and “father of statehood” and Colonel Tench Tilghman, assistant to George Washington and the man who carried the message of Cornwallis’ surrender to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
Until the American Revolution, Oxford enjoyed prominence as an international shipping center. With the loss of British ships and their variety of imported goods and tobacco replaced by wheat as a cash crop, businesses went bankrupt, and the population of a once thriving Oxford dwindled. It would be 100 years till the sleepy town awakened to prosperity again, this time due to the completion of the railroad in 1871 and improved methods of canning and packing, which made marketing the oysters from the bountiful Chesapeake Bay near tiny Oxford possible.
Yet again, business was booming and houses were going up everywhere until the early part of the 20th century when the oyster beds were depleted, and the packing houses shut down. Businesses went bankrupt, and the railway and steamships eventually disappeared. Oxford became a sleepy little town once again, inhabited mainly by watermen who still worked the waters of the Tred Avon.
Oxford remains a waterman’s town today, but is enjoying a new resurgence based on tourism and leisure and as a well-know cycling destination of the mid-atlantic. The suggested cycling route usually includes a trip across the Tred Avon River aboard the Oxford Bellevue Ferry, believed to be the nation’s oldest privately-operated ferry service.
Knowing this was a popular cycling destination, I assumed there must be trails going around the town. It was with great pleasure that my friend and I discovered the town itself was the cycling trail. As we cycled through this quaint little town surrounded by historic, flag-bearing houses…upon narrow, cobble-stone streets…lined by trees ablaze with autumn leaves…on the banks of a river…
there was no doubt we had picked the the perfect grand finale of our cycling season!
There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met…
When I was growing up, one of the things I remember clearly was going shopping or on any outing with my mom and watching, ok, cringing, as she would engage in conversations or small talk with total strangers. I simply could not understand why one would start a conversation or even make a comment to someone they had never met. No place was safe…and the grocery store, especially the check-out line, was the absolute worst.
Fast forward many years to my adulthood, and the apple apparently has not fallen far from the tree! It is to the point that my husband will jokingly ask me when I get home from shopping at my favorite grocery store, “Well, did you make any friends today?” Yes, I now know the joy and fun of engaging total strangers on outings, and how nice, even if just for a brief moment, to get to know some of the wonderful people surrounding us in this journey of life.
On a recent day trip with one of my dearest friends to my first pro-football game ever, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to Randy, who hours before was a total stranger. By the end of the game we were posing together for a selfie. I asked him about a play on the field, and from that question he took it to heart that I knew absolutely nothing about football and proceeded to explain to me every single thing as it was happening in the game from that point onward. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I actually understood the very basic concepts, I just allowed him to continue his one-on-one ,play-by-play narration of the game. It wasn’t just me, the whole section of strangers was high-fiving and sharing laughs and hugs as if we had all known each other for years. In fact, it was the joy of interacting with total strangers, even more than the game, that took the fun to a whole nother level!
I am apparently not alone in my sentiment about interactions with strangers. I can think of at least two times when just popping into a convenience store I have been stopped by total strangers. One was a dear old man who had just lost his wife and wanted a friendly face to pour out his heart to, another was a woman who seemed to need to tell someone about the pain of her recent break-up. For me, a trip to the grocery store without engaging strangers is empty indeed.
My apples did not fall far from my tree either. Both my sons love engaging total strangers in certain scenarios, and thankfully they are old enough that I don’t have to be concerned about their safety…just happy to observe that they see people in a friendly way as well.
In the end, wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if strangers were seen as possible friends yet unknown…
This has been the rainiest start to a summer I can recall in recent memory. With one stormy weekend after another, we had not so much as stuck a toe in the sand until the last weekend in June. So, it was with great anticipation that I packed all of our beach gear and food to finally meet up with one of our favorite families for a beach bonfire….yeah!!
We never go to the beach early, I’m not a fan of sunscreen and arriving after the crowds leave is even better. We got there around 4 pm, perfect timing…now to find our friends in the sea of people still remaining.
Her text tells me she is all the way at the end. Unfortunately, for my cooler-toting son and husband, it turned out to be at the very opposite end of where we were…so, after walking and stopping to catch our breath numerous times in what must have been a two-mile hike through the sand, we were more than happy, to say the least, when we finally made our rendezvous.
Ahh, to at last kick back in our chairs, ocean water lapping at our feet, as we basked in the sights and sounds of the great Atlantic. It was delightful…until….
When lightening strikes anywhere near the beach, sticking around is not an option, not if you value your life that is. A few carelessly stayed in the waves, but we high-tailed it out of there, opting to not risk even carrying our metal chairs. We decided to wait it out a while in our vehicles, eating a few snacks to curb our hunger and hoping the storm would pass so we could continue on with our plans. At least, that’s what a few of us were hoping, another few wanted to pack it in, call it a night, and head for the nearest restaurant. It remained to be seen who would get their wish.
After about 30 minutes and many consumed snacks later, my friend ventured toward the beach, looked back with a big smile on her face, and pointed to the sky…
Yes, sometimes things are definitely worth waiting through, because you just never know what beauty awaits on the other side of a storm.
Until next time,
∗ Special thanks to my son for sharing his pictures and video.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
– William Wordsworth, Daffodils
It seems that March this year decided to try a hostile take-over of April…but, despite its many snowy, blustery attempts, April has at long last landed, bringing all its promises of future beauty along with it. March, of course, had its own beauty despite its stormy attitude, so here’s my look back on this very temperamental month:
Above, the very loud and large pileated woodpecker, and below, one of our backyard monkeys, doing what they do best.
A morning walk with my fellow nature-loving neighbor provided the following photos…
A glimpse in her backyard, where the infamous white cats reside, but I was zeroing in on one of the upside down dead trees she repurposes for bird feeders…
Another peek in her yard shows some of the many daffodils she decorates our street with…
I took my buddy, Princess, along for our walk. I wouldn’t dream of leaving her home, the neighbors love her and sadly our walks are soon coming to an end. 😦 Watching her health deteriorate has been the hardest thing this month, I hope she will be with me for some warm spring days, but she is getting tired so I will enjoy the days we have left and treasure her companionship while I can.
My dear friend Lesley and I along with her daughter and precious granddaughter attended the Philadelphia flower show. I don’t have many pictures due to the very large crowds, but this one turned out ok and was a nice sneak peek at spring…
Of course there were the lingering snow days I posted of earlier thanks to our many Nor’easters…
The sure promise of warmer days here on the creek are the first wood duck sightings, usually blurred by the distance, but they still make my heart sing!
Things will only get more beautiful with the blooming of Azaleas right around the corner, but I was treated to an early show of their charm in our recent southern excursion. For now, I will enjoy the warming days in our area, thankful for the beauty each new day brings.
Until next time,
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8
…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows If it were not with friendship and love intertwined; And I care not how soon I may sink to repose, When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.
by Thomas Moore
Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite. It is a time set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways. It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.
A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life. I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.
Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing! It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun. Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade. We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories. She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer. She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach. Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend. Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.
Another treasured friendship is from my single, college days. This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats. We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.” I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years. As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia. She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.
Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged. She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend. We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together! She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.
As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”
May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!