We were driven from the port at Port Elizabeth to the Amakhala Game Reserve by a very proper English gentleman who had served in the British Army as an officer in his younger days. Beautiful stretches of open land and green trees passed by until our final destination where we were met with two friendly dogs who called Amakhala their home. Of course, nothing could have delighted me more than to have a four-legged greeting party.
This Safari was a dream of a lifetime for me. Just seeing the Big Five in their natural habitat, the hours of driving through the reserve trying to find them, hearing the sounds and smelling the African soil was really on the top of my bucket list. If I could only add all of those sensory elements to these photos!
NASA mission to Mars: Rover Curiosity touches down
Congratulations to NASA. A new mission begins that will give us knowledge about what is going on way up there in Mars. It really is hard to believe that so much has happened my my lifetime.
Where is my safe little world of yesterday? I have been around long enough to see the world become smaller and smaller and life become more and more complicated. Men on the moon. Senseless mass murders in public places of safety. Impossible packaging on all things bought because some unhinged or evil person decided to taint Tylenol. Cell phones, the internet, advances in medicine.
Everything seems to be changing too quickly for me. Each time I get a new Mac or iPhone, Apple soon comes out with a better and newer version making mine obsolete. Xboxes, Wii’s for everything! STOP. Let me breathe just a little. I am not ready to get off, please just slow down! I don’t want to live in a world all about “things.”
The greatest “thing” that made my day when I started kindergarten in Wintersville, Ohio was the mega-box of Crayolas that my mother bought for me to bring with me on my very first day of school. I was the luckiest person in the whole wide world. Reds, greens, blues, so many colors I could use to make rainbows and houses and skies and pictures of my dog. I coveted those crayons like nobodies business and couldn’t wait to show them off to my soon-to-be new friends.
Until, that is, the world of other little people’s stuff entered into my life. My soon-to-be new friend Donna had a baton. Shiny silver-colored with a nice white ball on the end. Uummmm….. I soon found the ability to covet more than one thing at the same time.
By the end of the week, although I still loved my new crayons and my friend was happy with her baton, I keep eying Donna’s baton and she kept wanting to use my crayons. Here is where the World of Barter was born in my un-evolved little brain. Donna and I decided to switch (just for the weekend) our coveted treasures. She took home my Crayolas and I got her baton.
How much fun I had with that baton all weekend and I lovingly took care of that baton, so when Monday morning came and we had to give back our bartered items, mine came back to me (you’re right) mostly broken(just as much as my heart was when I looked at my well-used coveted gift from my mother).
That was my first painful lesson in trusting that others will treat your “things” as you do.
So good luck on Mars. Let us begin to love and tolerate our differences more. Let us be grateful for what we have and not covet more than we need. Let’s slow down and smell the roses.
It was 1945. I was six years old. I was close to death.
Snow was so high that year. I remember that. I also remember my older brother’s friend chasing me and putting snow balls down my back. What did I know. I stayed out in our backyard with my brother for hours enjoying the snow in freezing temperatures in wet clothes.
They say you can’t get sick by getting cold, but I did. I had influenza and double pneumonia at the same time. My fever spiked to 106 and in the miraculous days when doctors made house calls, I had two doctors sitting by my side through the night for two days. One doctor, Dr. Sink, had delivered my mother in 1907 and the other, Dr. Healy, called him in to help. They both practiced homeopathy.
I only remember being in my room and seeing these men sitting in high back chairs near my bed and not really caring about much except being hot and wanting to sleep.
How long I was that way, I don’t know, but I do remember hearing the loud unfamiliar sound of tick, tick, tick when I finally opened my eyes. I looked. There on my small side table was a little clock made of green glass. Bright green glass with gold riming the hands of the clock. I closed my eyes again and went back to sleep with the tick, tick, tick soothing my fevered dreams.
Thank you Aunt Thelma where ever you are. Sorry I never told you how much I loved the clock. Or maybe I did and in my over-fifty state don’t remember. But do know I found that clock again today and it is wound, polished and set to 2012 time ready to sooth my dreams tonight. Tick, tick, tick. And life goes on.
As for my Berlin connection, my daughter and grandson and I visited Berlin in 2008 during Octoberfest. We stayed at The Upstalsbloom Hotel in East Germany close to the rail lines that took us to Alexanderplatz and access to all points in Berlin. We took the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus around the city and saw the best of Berlin. It is the easiest way to independently tour the city highlights.
Berlin is such a beautiful city that has been reenergized in the best architectural way. They even have left a few WWII buildings in their bombed condition for remembrance of what humanity can do to one another. The Holocaust Museum is free to all visitors and is a moving testament to the past history of what can easily happen in a society driven by a mad man.
So I leave my memories of Ursula with this posting and have to move on to today. But I will never again forget and set aside my letters from Ursula. Back in the Balfour box they go again, but this time not forgotten. I promise.
It was summer. It was hot. It was Friday night in 1953. My friends and I boarded the bus downtown to our local YMCA and scampered down the outside stairs to the basement Swing Haven. It was the place to be. The rainbow-lit juke box would be blaring and swinging with Dean Martin, Perry Como, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Fisher and Hank Williams. We could count on it. Our teenage hearts were pounding with excitement as we entered the darkened abyss.
Duck-tailed boys on one side and poodle skirts and pony tails on the other. The biggest worry for us girls was that we would be left standing alone and not get picked to dance.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that, other than being rejected by the opposite sex, we had so few fears in those days. We rode the bus alone at night and walked home on dimly lit streets and came home to unlocked doors. No cell phones or alarms. My parents never worried that I would be anything but safe in Steubenville in 1953.
At the same time a world away in Berlin, my pen pal Ursula, was living an entirely different life.
Dear Sandra, Berlin, 7th Juli 1953
I have the letter from June 18th not can send to you. Here in the sovjet-sector from Berlin we had a big demonstration of all people here. I send now the letter from the west-sector (american-sector). I hope very, that you now became it. Escuse me, that is so a long time continues.
Please write me directly, therewith I wait that the post goes. The next letter send me please to my aunt in the west-sector of Berlin.
Sincerely yours, from Ursula Thie
On June 16, 1953 construction workers on Stalinallee in East Berlin downed their tools and went on strike. The initial strike spread quickly: by the morning of June 17th 40,000 demonstrators were marching in East Berlin, with a wave of similar strikes and protests recorded in numerous cities.
By the afternoon, the situation had escalated to such an extent that Soviet tanks had rolled out onto the streets of Berlin, the conflict leaving more than 40 dead and 400 injured. By the evening it was over. Seven hundred protestors were arrested for their involvement. The level of discontent took both the East German authorities and the Soviets by surprise. And people like Ursula were caught in the middle just because she lived in a sector given to the Soviets.
Ursula lived through the violent fall of Berlin in 1945, loosing her father. The Soviet Army held little interest in taking prisoners, which seemingly played well into the German mentality of “fighting to the last”.For her hard times were a well-etched part of her 17 year old life so far. She seemed to take it strangely in stride.
The letter I received from her written during the uprising talks matter-of-factly about the mini-opera houses, cinemas and her life living in the heart of ‘the chief city’ of Germany. In closing, she notes that in Germany the modern music of bogies, bops, and other dances grows. Jazz has only found ‘some friends’. They like waltzes, fox trots, polkas and tangos.
Little did we both know that the world would in time become smaller and smaller with an internet click melding each civilization and one another.
It has always been my rule that if something has been hanging in my closet for a year or two and I haven’t worn it more than once, it goes to our local thrift shop. Clothes have always been easy to not become an attachment for me. But anything with memories, not so easy to toss.
Having lived in the same house for forty years one can just imagine how many memory-attached things I have. And bizarre as it may seem to you, I even have my mother’s purse I brought home from the hospital when she died with all her precious personal items still tucked inside. A real Grandma purse, a piece of her and who she was, with short handles and a snap closure that is still tucked away on my closet shelf. I even wrote a whole essay about that purse in Read Between My Lines.
All of this brings me to my efforts today to finally begin eliminating some ‘stuff’ among my personal things my mother, the guardian of her children’s memories, had saved for me.
In an old Balfour box (from my college jewelry days) I found a group of long-forgotten time weathered envelops addressed to me in Ohio and posted from Berlin, Germany. Letters that took me back into a world that was about to change, way beyond the innocent exchanges of my new pen pal, Ursula Thie and I. We became pen pals through a program at our Methodist Church.
The beginning year of our childhood correspondence was 1953. I had just turned 14 and was enjoying the freedoms of Junior High and life in a thriving Ohio Valley Steel town.
Berlin, den 27.2.1953
I thank you for your letter. You have it write in the december and I have became it now in february. With your letter together I have become three table of chocolate, about these I was very glad. My name is Ursula Thie.
We girls here in Germany are not how you Y-tem. Our name is young community of evangelist church. In our group we are girls between 14th and 20 years. I self am 17 years old…..
I live in Berlin with my mother and my brother. My father was falling in the contention 1945.
I am 1,70m great, have blond hairs and blue eyes. When you have a photo from you please send it me.
In the winter I am going several times into a teatre, In the summer I travel out of Berlin.
Please write me in your next letter many things from you and your live. I please you, to excuse my base english. The name of the flower at this letter is bell-flower-glickenblume.
In my world, we had just elected a new president, Dwight D. Eisenhower and my family in January was glued to our television set watching I Love Lucy give birth. In February our president refuses clemency for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and Walt Disney’s 14th animated film, Peter Pan, arrived at our local movie theater.
In Ursula’s world, she was learning English, going to festivals where she was singing jolly songs and eating pancake, enjoying her girl’s group where they visited various denominational churches including the Russian Orthodox and the Naumburger Dom and planning ahead for a summer away from Berlin.
Little did we both know that on June 17 of that year things would change for her in East Germany.
Blogs and my correspondence with Ursula to be continued……
Ok. I think I am really loosing it. At least that is what my 18 year old grandson chided when I told him of my latest animal- bonding adventure. You see, we have a frog in our pond. Just one. Where he came from beats me. He just is . Maybe came in with the plants or maybe some kind of amphibian immaculate conception. Anyway he is. He just is. Every day and night this guitar plunk of a sound, (if guitar strings were made of rubber bands), emits from our fish pond. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.
For weeks now I have tried to find him without success. Looking under ledges. lifting vining plants, poking everywhere. No luck. Then yesterday I heard him as I was limping past the pond. Heard him inside the lavender flowering pond plant.
His croak is loud and I was amazed that he was so small, this tiny green pond frog with such a strong sound.
Immediately, upon seeing his tiny form and sweet face, I felt his loneliness inside that big plant. Calling day after day into emptiness.
I quickly put my iPhone and Google to work, found a good green pond frog sound bite and held it up to the lavender pond plant. The rest is history.
We now have a happier frog who believes there is someone out there just like him to talk to. At least until I can find him a friend. Other than Sofi.