Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back Home Again - Part 2 -
My cousin M and I are only a year apart and relished the time together. We had some deep conversations and the week went by fairly quickly. We enjoyed strolling along Lake Maggiorie and went on two boat rides trying to keep cool - one on Lake Maggiorie and one on Lake Lugano. It worked. We put our feet into both lakes.
I enjoyed a wonderful porcini risotto one evening and the boccalino of wine to go with it and strengthen me for the bike ride back to the apartment!
I did have another first this visit. In the grand piazza, I had pesto gnoochi one evening and ordered my water (still, without gas) and the waiter brings a glass of water with a lemon slice and ice cubes!!!!
In my 46 years of travelling to Switzerland, never once have I ever something to drink with ice. I gazed in wonder at the glass. I held the glass up to my ear and swished it, just to hear the clinking of ice against the wall of the glass - all to the amusement of my cousin. She called the waiter over and had me tell him that this was the first time in all those years of coming to Switzerland to have ice. On such a hot day, it
was most marvelous and welcome. Before the waiter went home for the night, he brought a glass with more ice cubes for me to enjoy!! What a sweetheart!
We took the Post Bus and went into the Val Versace (Valley Versace) and no, it was not full of designer clothes! A wild and rugged valley with small villages and water that is emerald green, deep and clear. Folks were
lounging on the huge boulders worn smooth and cooling off in the waters of the river - that were cold and could be treacherous. The houses were quaint made of old stones with stone roofs. Banking on tourist trade, they sold woolen slippers, mittens, gloves, hats, felted wool purses, honey, polenta mix, risotto mix, balsamic vinegar, etc. The wool stuff was beautiful and artsy, all hand made and way over my budget. I came home with porcini risotto mix and polenta with truffle mix. That I could afford.
It was a very hot day, and the ride back by postal bus was very, very warm as the bus was full, some were standing, and the bus driver never thought to crank up the a/c by setting it higher and having the fan blower more. The economical Swiss - why it would consume more gasoline! Forget that everyone on the bus was hot!
The boat trip on Lake Lugano was wonderful and Gandria with its quaint old buildings can only be reached by water and is the most painted of all places on Lake Lugano. I could see why. There is a smuggling museum there - smuggling goods during WW 2- and it would be interesting to see some day.
Marcote was an enchanting village with an impressive cathedral. Also, must see one day.
Although, the day we went to Ascona, we missed the market day, I did find 2 nice boccalino's to take home at a cermaic/pottery shop.
I came home with some must have chocolate, only 1 bag of chocolate wafers as there was only 1 bag on the store shelf, and less cheese than I would have liked.
When one is dependent on other people for transportation, one is not as free to do things as one would when renting a car. It was so hot, that even in my family's home town, although they have a great cheese shop, I couldn't buy a thing, since it would all have melted into a summer fondue!
I was astounded once again at the prices of everything - clothing, shoes, purses, scarves, even the restaurant prices. I mean, 24 francs for proscuitto wrapped around cantaloupe slices! You can make it yourself for a third of the price!
Another thing that struck me this time, was whenever we used a public restroom - which for the most part are fairly clean - there was no soap. Sinks with water but not soap! For as concerned as the Swiss are with cleaniness, how germy are the people walking around?!!?
By the end of the week, my speaking and vocabulary had improved greatly. It only took me 5 minutes to come up with the word for broom one morning!!!! Yikes! When you don't speak a language for a long time you forget the simplest words!
To catch the flight home, I had to get up at 4:30 am, my other cousin L drove me to the Basel train station and we had extra time for cup of coffee, before she promptly put me on the wrong train. Thankfully, I had a couple minutes to take my luggage and pile it all on the train on the other side of the platform. Thanks, L!!!
I checked in fairly quickly and cleared security without much wait. I stopped and bought some chocolate and magazines (german ones to help me practice my reading and comprehension skills while seeing what's fashionable in Europe these days). When I boarded the flight, I spied my Comfort coach aisle seat and saw a middle-aged man in the window seat - black curly hair way past his shoulders and frizzed out, dressed in jeans and t-shirt, and wearing sunglasses. Slouched in his seat, when I placed my carry on in the over head bin, he turned toward the window with his entire body. He looked like a rock muscian and clearly didn't want to engage in any conversation. I have sat with some of the strangest people when I fly alone. Two middle-age guys right behind us were more talkative and flirted with the stewardess. Apparently, they were a rock band from Georgia who played in Bern. The guy I was sitting next to was a guitar player for the band!!! And he had no clue whatsoever, that sitting right next time was a pastor!!!!! What a picture! A rocker and a pastor!
By the time, I got to Atlanta, I was ready to exit the plane and stand for while in the passport and customs area. At least Atlanta had the a/c on! Then it was on to rechecking the bag and going through another security check. I had a two hour layover and I barely made it to the other gate with 15 minutes to spare. That's cutting things closer than I like.
I could barely sit for the last 1 1/2 hour flight to the North Coast. My tailbone was sore.
Thankfully, LH picked up in fairly good time and I was thankful to be home again, safe and sound. My bed never looked so inviting and the pillow was softly calling my name.
Another adventure and lots of family time, and beautiful scenery, long conversations, good food and wine, my soul has been refreshed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back Home Again -
I thought I'd write before I left to fly across the pond to the land of Alps, Cheese, Chocolate and Watches, but there was too much to do.
I flew in last evening - exhausted, hungry, ready to be home and with a sore tailbone from sitting 11 1/2 hours on two planes. The main thing is that I returned safe and sound.
Switzerland was hotter than ever I experienced, which means that my summer travel remains true to form - no matter where I go, it is hotter than normal. I did miss our air conditioning greatly.
I met my sister in Atlanta and we flew over together. So, we were able to spend some time together as well. We must be sisters as we both were reading "The Help" - she had the paperback and I on the Kindle. She finished first although I was ahead of her to begin with.
She was a help to negogiate the train from the airport to Zurich main station, while I helped in getting us to a place where we had some transactions to make. I picked the lunch place and ate a most wonderful Zurich dish - geschnetzlets with spaetzli - chopped veal pieces on a cream sauce with wee dumplings along with some veges. It was delicious. My sister also got us from Zurich to Basel by train, something she's done many times. My cousin and her husband met us at the train station and we got all the luggage in as well as ourselves.
I was not feeling well, having a runny nose Tuesday night already. I had a bit of a sinus infection going on which coupled with being up 2 whole days and not getting any sleep on the plane certainly didn't help the situation. My cousin is a retired nurse and stopped at the drugstore where we picked up some sinus tablets - plant based, nose spray, and aspirin in a powdered form that mix in water. Believe it or not, all that helped and in a couple days, I was feeling better if still a bit congested.
WE enjoyed a lovely open house with wine and finger foods at my cousin's and several other cousins joined us as well. Let it be known that neither my sister nor I were overly talkative as we were trying hard just to stay awake!
On Friday, we went to the town where my Dad grew up and all my aunts and uncles spent much of their childhood. I still have relatives from my mom and dad there and where I spent most of all my times in Switzerland. WE stopped at the Flower Shop and picked up a couple small flowering plants -
one for our parents and one for my aunt. It was a very hot, sunny day. We visited my parents grave site and my grandma's before heading to my aunt's gravesite for the brief service where all my cousins gathered in the shade of the columbarium wall. The pastor was in his 50's, very pleasant and personable. He gave me an order of service for the church service which followed. He even played two pieces on the cello which he did wonderfully.
My one cousin spoke of my aunt's life when my aunt was young. I spoke about my aunt during our growing up years in Chicago, and my cousin finished with remembrances of my aunt when she retired and returned to Switzerland. The pastor referred to me as a sister in ministry!
Afterwards, we drove to a restaurant overlooking the local lake for a very fine lunch complete with wine and plenty of talk. How good to see my cousins gathered together. It is a rare occurance even for those who live over there. I saw my great-aunt and how wonderful to be together, catching up each other's lives and remembering our parents and aunt. My aunt who never married or had children must have been smiling down to see us all there to honor her life, to remember her and to bid her farewell as she has begun her new and eternal life with God. My sister and I were so very blessed that we went and were there.
It was so hot, that I nearly sat in the big silver urn that was full of ice and water to keep the white wine cold, but decorum dictated merely putting my hand in there and wiping my forehead!!!
I must admit, when I was with my cousin M in Ticino - the Swiss Riveria - we stopped in the grocery store one hot late afternoon after a very warm postal bus ride home from sightseeing - and I pointed out cheeses in the refrigerator section - to feel cool up my sleeve! And I opened the freezer door and stuck my face into the cooler to "look more closely at the fish!!!" My cousin thought I had gone crazy with heat and just cracked up. However, we cooled off nicely and quickly!
Ticino is a beautiful area of Switzerland with lush vegetation, various palm trees and Italian is spoken. The food, of course, is also very Italian, very good and as with the rest of Switzerland, also expensive.
Mostly, it was just too hot to eat and lunch usually consisted of liters of non-carbonated water for me, nectarines, and little tidbits of bread and salami, and even an ice cream or two. We stuck our feet into Lake Maggiore to cool off and spent time on the lakeshore where there might be a cool breeze. We rode bikes down to the lake and the bike ride created a bit of a breeze. Course I haven't riden a bike in over 25 years and eventually got the hang of it again. Even have some bruised legs to prove it - mostly from stopping and bangning into the handle bars!!!
Ascona is a lovely town with a beautiful lakefront. We had a fantastic dinner at a Grotto. It started with bread and 2 types of salami (all served family style - they bring you salami on a cutting board, you chop off the slices you want and the board then goes on to another table where the diners there do the same thing). That was followed by thin slices of beef tongue. Needless to say, we passed on that. I grew up having to eat tongue and am glad not to have to eat it as an adult. Then came salad. Followed by a plate of bow tie pasta with a tomatoe cream sauce that was simply wonderful with a bit of heat. Then arrived the meat with polenta with an incredible sauce. Wow! Following that was a variety of cheese also on a cutting board. And then came a simple dessert of small slices of bar cookies with fruit spread on them. The dessert was nothing to write home about - but by then, we were too stuffed to really want it any way. The wine was excellant as well.
Good thing we don't eat like that all the time!!!!
There is more to share but the laundry is crying out to be done, my pictures are ready to be picked up, and Jett is seeking more attention as the cancer advances. I don't know how much longer we'll have with him. His leg is looking much worse than when I left a week and a half ago. Even some of his chest lumps have bled a bit. He seems not to be much pain, but he clearly isn't a happy camper, but still has an appetite and still has life in his eyes. I pray he will tell me when he has had enough and we will let him go. But for now, he is still here and I can kiss his handsome face and hug him and rub him.

Friday, August 12, 2011

RGBP'S Friday Five:

The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts bestowed,
can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

(Mary Oliver, "Thirst", Beacon Press, 2006)

For this Friday Five I invite you to offer five gratitudes you recognize in your life.

1) That I am God's and beloved of God, even when I feel it not.
2) For LH, his steadiness, his love, his sense of humor
3) For my sister, she is my best friend and shares my history and is my
strength and encourager
4) For Jett and Jazz, our greyhounds. Especially, I am thankful for each
day and week we have left with Jett - our most handsome, elegant and
refined grey. He is such an endearing, good soul. The cancer is
advancing and I know our time together is limited.
5) For our home with the wide open meadow behind our fenced-in backyard
and all the beauty I behold from magnificent sunsets, to impending
storms, to bluebirds, meadowlarks and a variety of butterflies.

There is always something for which I feel gratitude. Even this dark night, for those moments of gratitude remind me that God is still with me and that I am still connected to God. I hope that this dark night will end with a glorious new day that dawns with life abundant and I will be serving a congregation again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

It is a bit disheartening to receive a rejection of your dossier and not even be invited to an interview. Sigh. There are two other possibilities, neither in this state. So, maybe God is telling us, it's time to leave, really leave and begin anew somewhere totally different. Only, totally different is intimidating and scary. To pull up stakes and venture into the unknown is never easy. I doubt it was for Abraham or any of the disciples.
What if it doesn't work out? I've been down that road before. What if LH doesn't find any place to serve? What if I fail, disappoint, and let down a people of God? What then? I worry about these things.
But my faith also tells me that stepping out on faith is what we are called to do, no matter how scary, how inadequate, how uncertain and unsure one may feel. It's about trusting in God.
In this dark night of my soul, trusting has been a real challenge. The Great Silence has remained silent and I struggle sometimes to connect more deeply. I feel exiled in the wilderness and continue to walk an unknown path into an uncertain future.
God has fortunately provided me with three Sundays of pulpit supplying in three different Lutheran churches. This past Sunday, being a communion Sunday, I had to work with the new ELW and only messed up the prayer after communion, which I went back and did - only it wasn't unison, then added the blessing about being sent out to share communion, then the benediction, then the dismissal. All in all, not too bad for a low-church Presbyterian using the new worship book for the first time. I did enjoy sharing communion, blessing the children, but for the most part, I was constantly checking and rechecking what came next, what page I was to be on, etc. Here's hoping, this coming Sunday will go better.
I usually print out my communion liturgy and have the pages on the table. Of course, we, Presbyterians, can be creative with the liturgy and theme it for that Sunday's scripture lessons. I guess I just haven't been Lutheran in a long while and it would take a bit to get back into it.
In the meanwhile, I am working on what I'll be sharing at my aunt's memorial service. Trying to decide what clothes to bring with and keeping the weight of the luggage down to return with chocolate and cheese and some favorite things. It could be really hot over there where nothing is airconditioned and it could be coolish. Knowing my track record, it will be unseasonably warm!!!
So, I will not dwell on what is not to be and set my sights on what is before me, trusting that God will guide me and lead us into a future where life abundant yet awaits.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Memories -
I've been thinking about my Aunt who passed away in late June and what I will say at her memorial service. So many wonderful memories rise up that were lying dormant for years.
My Aunt lived in Chicago and was a nurse at the Prominent Hospital near the John Hancock building and indeed, she lived nearly across the street from it in subsidized housing for doctors and nurses.
Many times, my sister and I, rode the EL into the city where my Aunt would meet us, take us to lunch at Marshall Fields or let us look around. She always had something special planned like swimming in Lake Michigan at the beach, going to the Art Institute or a craft project or to eat couscous, frozen chocolate Frango mint pie or drink ginger ale. She took me to see David Copperfield before he was hugely famous, and I attended at least one National Geographic Society lecture.
I remember being excited to go and spend a weekend with her. She loved to read and when I was so enthralled with the Dr. Suess book, Green Eggs and Ham, she made me green eggs (with food coloring) and ham for breakfast once. I thought that was just the coolest thing and something my mother would never do!!!
Whenever my sister and I would go for a weekend, I recall that Mom packed a knitted dark brown with thin tan stripes bag with long wooden handles knitted onto to it and filled with our toothbrushes, toothpaste, brushes, pj's, fresh underwear and change of clothes. We would get on the EL, press our faces to the windows and watch the suburban landscape change to urban with little green space, except for a couple parks, highrises and graffiti sprayed public housing apartment complexes and we could see where the EL tracks would curve ahead and take us to the Loop.
I wonder now, as I think of it, what those on the EL thought of us, carrying that knitted bag, looking like immigrant children who spoke English flawlessly and spoke Swiss-German when we wanted to say things that no one else would understand. We carried no pink or lavendar princess or Disney inspired overnight bags, just that humble non-descript dark brown knitted bag. Thinking back on it, it just makes me wonder and I feel as though we looked like first generation ethnic children! And we were.
My sister still has the bag tucked away somewhere safe in her house. Memories of trips into the city and adventures with my Aunt are still contained in that knitted bag and in my heart.