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Manhattan, Central Park, New York City. 


Waters off the coast of the Abacos, Bahamas.


Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland Oregon.

Wishing you all a very festive, joyous,
springtime, wherever you are.  

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Grasses yellow-green bright, leaves are just buds, blooms appear unexpectedly, and the result is spectacular. I react with raw emotion, reminded of happy times past, hopeful of things to come.

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When we  moved to a suburb in New York, we had a side yard we developed into a beautiful garden in which we  spent many long, happy hours working.  I wrote several blogs about the garden. Here is an example: Dressing Down to Dress Up

We have sold our big home with the garden and moved to a very enjoyable, easy to manage condominium.  In the process of moving, we no longer own land for outdoor gardening.

I am going to grow a garden anyway.

My inspiration to continue growing a garden without owning one, came from reading about people who took up gardening potholes!

I figure if somebody could successfully make a pothole into a garden, I ought to be able to find an plot of land for gardening in downtown Portland, Oregon.

I recently decided to adopt a four foot square area out in front of our condo that has a tree in the middle.  This small piece of land is right next to a main thoroughfare and cars often park next to it. Because nothing is on the land and it is shady, because people step on it, because dogs water the tree and wander freely across the dirt, plants haven’t grown.

Here is my chosen plot of land.

You may ask, why would I choose such a spot for gardening?  Well, for starters, I figure I can’t do much damage to this plot of land. And with a tiny bit of luck, perhaps I can do better.

It was already the end of the July when I decided I needed a garden which means that most of this year’s growing season is over, not leaving a lot of planting time. Harvest is already upon us.

Therefore, I have dug up the area and have started planting perennials, hoping to establish a base of greenery that will root in this year, and expand and flower next year.

An amazing number of people have stopped to speak with me while I work on the garden.  Many offer words of encouragement, saying they enjoy seeing the little plot of land change its design as plants are added.

It is a perfect-sized project.  I have dug up the dirt, planted a variety of perennials and the biggest goal I have now is to keep the plants watered.  I might also drop some bulbs in for spring flowering. Toward winter  this little plot of land will be composted and I hope at least some of the newly planted perennials make it through the winter and show themselves next spring.

As of today, the outdoor square area looks like this.

Will it survive?  I hope so, but if not, then I can start all over again next spring.  If it does survive, I will add many flowers in the spring.

After all, the entire purpose of a garden is to have something to look forward to in the future, to care for something, and to see the cycle of life as it rotates through all its beauty.

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Just about everybody plans to move to Portland Oregon, so it seems.  But I must tell you something up front, from the beginning. Carefully think about this before you start packing.  Remember that it is always raining in Portland, Oregon.
We recently moved there ourselves, into our newly acquired 100 year old condo in North West Portland, walking distance to just about everything. We don’t own a car, but instead use public transportation or our bicycles. Because we are “Honored Citizens” meaning we are older than 65 it costs us $1.00 to take the Max train to the airport.  Streets are well marked for bicycles and we can safely use them to go shopping, to the library, the hardware store.  Buses are well managed and comfortable.  The streetcar runs around the downtown area and is very dependable.On those very unusual times when we want a car, we just rent.
People in Portland are young at heart, eclectic and tend to be environmentally sensitive. There is a lot of creativity and a great number of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial route, and who are designing and running very interesting small businesses.  They are easy to meet and tend to remember your name the next time that they see you.
I expected to have so many young people dismiss us from the conversation because of our age, but thus far, this is not what has happened.  We join conversations that are lively and interesting, and have made friends from the age of 30 and upward thus far into the 70s, with ease.  People see and greet you.  Cars stop for EVERYBODY to cross the street, and not just when there is a red light.  When we first arrived, we just stood there in disbelief at a street corner when cars stopped to let us cross even when there was no STOP sign.    My husband and I have decided that when we go back to the East Coast, our biggest danger is that we will forget that cars don’t stop for pedestrians and are likely to be hit.
Oregonians converse about many things with a calmness that just amazes me.  They have a habit of allowing people to finish their sentences before replying.  In indoor environments, they speak in relatively quiet voices.  I have a favorite coffee shop that I visit and enjoy sitting there listening to calm low toned voices speaking with each other, avoiding shouting and sharp, disruptive tones.   It reminds me of places like cafes in Paris and small shops in Sweden.  Stores and restaurants in Portland still have excellent service, much like the US had in the late 1950’s.  Clerks come up and ask us if we need any help, and actually provide assistance when asked for it.  Waiters check to ensure that we got what we ordered before taking off to the kitchen.  This is happening so consistently that we have finally decided that we are not confronting aberrations, but truly a different culture.
It is not without its problems, of course.  Homeless persons are found here, as they are across America.  Poverty is a problem especially in our newly formed 1% economy.  Food lines for hungry people can be long.  There are numerous opportunities to volunteer and help out.  Volunteerism is strong out here.
I hope that this delightful place where the trees are hundreds of years old and have enormous diversity of leafage, even on city streets, survives the ongoing transition we witness. We see cranes and new development everywhere.  Urban housing boards are arguing with developers over how high buildings can be, and how close to the road, how sustainable the building should be, debating building construction environmental definitions and classifications.   It is not clear to me how long Portland can survive this onslaught of construction and new development, but time will tell.
Some of the new developments that transitioned old industrial areas to new living and shopping arrangements are truly marvelous.  They are architecturally pretty and have used old structures to the max.  Newly designed buildings fit beautifully with the old, and blend well into very lovely neighborhoods with good character.  Excellent restaurants abound. The food is very fresh, organic and delicious.

By the way, did I tell you that it is always raining in Portland?

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Bike Riding in the Abacos

We don’t really need complicated gears on our bikes in the Abacos.  What we do need are wider wheels to take on dirt roads and baskets to carry food and drink.  Most of the island is flat. It is perfect biking for people wanting a simple, quick and quiet way to get from one place to another, in most cases.

An essential piece of gear for our bikes is the rear view mirror to help us keep track of cars and for ourselves, helmets.  Both are available in local hardware stores in Marsh Harbour, as are the bikes and the baskets.

Recently, we started to ride on the major highway and Sunday morning is an exceptionally good time to ride.  There are very few cars on the road.  Traffic looks like this.

Liz, Marge, Jimmy, Merle, Mary and Melanie

As a challenge, we decided to take a 30 mile ride from the Esplanade of Bahama Palm Shores to Sandy Point.  Since the start of the New Year, in preparation for the longer trip, we have been riding daily with a group of friends for 7 or 8 miles.

Today was the day for our thirty mile trip.  Three of us took off this morning at 8 am for the big ride.  Our husbands photographed us at the starting point.  It was a surprisingly cool morning and we headed out actually wearing light jackets and sweatshirts, which is unusual.  We more typically wear shorts and a t-shirt.

Merle, Lavonda and me.

 I carried a small can of juice and my camera in my bike basket.  In contrast, my well prepared partners were carrying oranges, bananas, water, and some delicious raisins and nuts that a neighbor packed for us. They kindly shared their stash with me.

One of our bikers, Merle, was wearing a special helmet that her husband Pete had prepared for her.  She was concerned she might not be up to making the whole trip.  Pete duct taped a special hat on the front of her helmet saying, “Sandy Point or Bust”. 

He also contributed shirts to encourage us to complete the trip that say ” “Work Hard…..No Surrender….No Giving up!”

We took off down the road from the Esplanade and made the 10 miles to Schooner Bay in less than one hour, which pleased us to no end.  We were riding fine.  We stopped at the sign to celebrate and take some photos.

The guard at Schooner Bay kindly agreed to take our photo at the 10 mile point and here we are. 

We soon realized it was time to get serious and get back on those bikes until we hit the 20 mile mark, our next stopping point at the turn off to Hole-in-the Wall.  The next part of the trip was particularly beautiful, because we were headed through Crossing Rocks, an area where the island is least wide.  Birds and butterflies are everywhere, and the marsh is very pretty.  

From there we actually took a little hill before it leveled out and we quietly cycled our way through the Abaco National Forest.  I never tire of looking at the wide variety of palms and trees on either side of the road.,

We pedaled steadily for the next hour, usually one cyclist following the other on the left side of the road.

There were several miles where we cycled through an area where there was a forest fire, just a few days ago.  In parts, some logs were still smoking. Luckily it just rained and the fire is essentially out..

In what seemed like a relatively short period of time, one hour, we made it to the 20 mile mark where we stopped long enough to peel an orange and eat a banana, then get back on our bikes and head on down the road for the 30 mile mark..

After the fire

Before we knew what happened, we were at the 27 mile mark, just outside of Sandy Point, where we were met by our husbands and some friends who cheered us over the line.  We stopped for some photos then headed on into Sandy Point to the beach.  

At that point, we hit the wind head on and really had to push to make it the last few miles.  If we were going to be punished by weather, that was a reasonable time to have it happen.  We were already over the finish line and headed to our stopping point.

On top of having a great trip, we had the pleasure of meeting up with our husbands and friends who threw our bikes on a pick up truck and took us to Nancy’s for a delicious lunch.  That was a terrific reward for our efforts and will keep us on the path to new adventures here on the island. 


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A Friend Passes Away

A friend passes away silently one morning
just as
the sun touches his window
one last time

The grass wet with dew still
breeze just beginning
clouds accumulating
palm trees sway
boughs bend

Palmettas flash their silver sides
over the insect-infested, bird-filled marshes.

The night heron marches away,
this time not screeching.

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What happened to 2012?

We thought we had things figured out for 2012.  We were just going to steady the course, keep everything as it is, and just coast for my husband’s first year of retirement. 
Instead, in our usual fashion, we changed our minds.  We decided instead to downsize and hit the floor running by announcing to our surprised children in January that we were thinking of selling our New York home of 30 years.  Then, after we decided that we should sell our home, we also decided that it was a good time to renovate our 500 square foot seasonal cottage at our lake.  Then we decided to renovate the 200 square foot guest cottage so that there would be sufficient space to have kids visit in the summer months.
Having just about filled up every waking moment with the job of examining our closets and bookshelves, throwing things out, making runs to our local  library with book donations, then driving over to Goodwill with some of our belongings, then having a garage sale for some of our furniture, and then readying our home for sale, then completing our transactions with the various contractors who did the renovation,  we decided that we should also begin looking for a condominium. 
We looked everywhere.Then we decided just to skip getting a condo.  Then we changed our minds again, and we picked up a condo in Portland, Oregon.  
By the end of 2012, we managed to sell our New York home of 30 years and complete the cottage renovation.    
I really did not believe that we could have packed much else in this first year of my husband’s retirement!  Looking back at the year that I retired, I guess we did something almost equally crazy.
With respect to 2012, we are grateful for our children’s patience, for their love and support, and for our loyal group of grandchildren, who always manage to make us look on the bright side of life.  
This is best summarized, perhaps, by one of our grandsons when he and his family visited us at the cottage this summer.  He sneaked out of the main cottage where he slept with his Mom and Dad and baby sister, to knock on the door of the small wooden guest cabin to visit his Grandma and Grandpa who were sitting in bed together for their morning cup of coffee.  He crawled into bed with us, where we were surrounded by boxes, blankets and items stacked in the corner while the renovation was being completed.  The early morning sun was coming through the windows. 
He looked around and said, “This is my favorite cabin in the whole world.” 
For a couple of doting grandparents, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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