August 16, 2014


I last posted here in June and wrote about my tendency to have incredibly clever ideas for writing while I was planting and weeding in my backyard garden. I lamented that as soon as I stepped inside, those ideas vanished before I could sit down at my laptop or even make a quick note on paper. Summer's drawing to a close and now I'm reaping tomatoes and argula and and summer squash and kale--and, of course, still weeding.

Tomatoes, fresh from my garden. 

I'm also reaping ideas while gardening, but they seem to be more remembrances than the creation of something new. I've just finished a massive revision of THE PRIVATE WARS OF G. P. CALLAHAN and so am on a writing furlough for the moment. My gardening thoughts have turned to memories of friends and loved ones. People dear to me, important to me, some of whom I haven't called or emailed for too long a time.

My garden thoughts fly away.

While pulling weeds, I remember the past and make a promise to myself that I'll drop an old friend a line, or email a sister-in-law, or give an elderly friend from church a call. But, like my writing ideas, those promises seem to fly away before I step inside my home.

Why does this happen? I'm not sure. Could be that the duties of my "inside" life crowd away any thoughts I had in the sunshine. Could be that my attention span is way too short. Or maybe my brain can't handle more than one thought at
a time. Surely it's not because I'm growing old!

I once told a friend that, although I hadn't called for a while, I often thought of her. She assured me that she believes that whenever we think of someone, it's a blessing for that person. It's as if we're offering a prayer for her, even though she may never know it. I find that comforting. This summer I've prayed for lots of people! Amen.

June 9, 2014


I wish could store ideas in this fanciful hat until I get to the computer.
I'm appalled to see how long it's been since I've posted anything here. It's not because I haven't composed any blogs. It's just that I seem to come up with ideas and their development while I'm digging or weeding or planting something in the garden. I'm full of meaningful thoughts and clever ways to embellish them when I'm outdoors, but they all seem to elude me once I'm inside, where phone calls and bills and unfinished manuscripts take me away from my garden thoughts.

It's as if my mind opens up when I'm down in the dirt. Ideas are planted and nourished. A blog thought blossoms into unbelievable beauty and depth. I smile as I weed, picturing readers who will be amazed at my clever turn of phrase or unusual take on a news item.

Then the wind of life blows across my garden plot and pulls me inside. All those ideas scatter like seeds not planted deeply enough and I can't retrieve them. Sigh!

Well, at least today I've managed to sit down and blog about not blogging. There are parallels I could draw here to the writing process, but I'll think about that tomorrow.

February 19, 2014


Peace Park in Hong Kong is dedicated to those who died in WWII.
Dragon statue in Zodiac Park, Kowloon.

 One of the most interesting aspects of our trip to China and Hong Kong was the chance to see how the residents use their parks. All ages took part in activities there, from senior citizens knitting or practicing qigong or tai chi to young adults dancing and playing games. China's parks are well used, and tourists are welcome to enjoy the fresh air and beauty, as well as to join in the fun!

People light candles in the Great Buddha park.

What a polite way to say "Keep off the Grass!" (Happy is the tender grass when here your feet do not trespass!)

Young adults play keep-away in waterside park on Llama Island near Hong Kong.

Tourists join the dance in Beijing.

Hacken sack with a feathered birdie. Looks like fun!

More dancers. Two-step to "Red River Valley."
Water calligraphy. Beautiful and artistic. It disappears when the water dries. A good example of valuing the process, not just the product.

A covered walkway in Beijing's Peoples Park was lined with knitters and people playing Mah Jongg, chess and checkers.

February 3, 2014


Pandas like to climb and take shelter in hollow trees or rock crevices.

On a rainy day in Chongqing, we visited the zoo's panda pavilion at lunch time.

We were able to see six pandas doing what pandas do best--eat bamboo. Although there were bamboo structures similar to a school jungle gym in each enclosure, we were told that these gentle giants mostly eat and sleep.

It soon became obvious why these intriguing bears are considered China's National Treasure!

They are solitary creatures and don't mind turning their backs on visitors.


 ...and eating

...and eating

                                                                   ..and eating some more.

 The last enclosure we visited seemed larger than the others, and the eldest female resides there. She's the mother/grandmother of several of the pandas in the zoo and seemed happy to rest on her laurels.

A panda cub is pink, blind and toothless when born and weighs from 3 to 5 ounces, about 1/800th of its mother's weight. When we visited, a mother and her newborn cub were in isolation, so we weren't able to see this tiny miracle in person.
Grandma bear enjoys her lunch--and solitude.

In the past pandas were thought to be rare and noble creatures. The Empress Dowager Bo was buried with a panda skull in her vault. Today pandas are rare and considered endangered. Their natural habitat in the Sichuan province was been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

January 23, 2014


As amazing as the wall is, its surrounding scenery is breathtaking!
We found the Great Wall fascinating, but
were also pleasantly surprised to find that it
wound its way through gorgeous mountains and foliage.

The Great Wall is actually a discontinuous network of wall segments built by various dynasties to protect China's northern boundary.

It's usually included in the list of the
Seven Wonders of the Medieval World and
is on UNESCO's list of great national and
historical sites.

The wall is around 2,145 miles long,
with an extra 1,770 miles of branches
and spurs. Parts of it are over 2000 years old.
Built for military defense, the wall accommodated traffic of soldiers, horses, and vehicles.

It's estimated that more than 1,000,000 workers died during the wall's construction.

A view of autumn splendor from the wall.

View from a watchtower.

From this vantage point, soldiers used weapons such as axes, sledge hammers,
crossbows, and gunpowder--a Chinese invention

The western section also provided defense for those traveling the Silk Road.

The wall was begun over 2000 years ago. Today, this tree
guards one of the ramps built for handicapped access.

Tourists taking the stairs to an entrance. Lots of climbing!

January 17, 2014


We recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong and China and, as always, our travels were sprinkled with surprises. In addition to exploring the Great Wall, enjoying a delicious variety of regional food, marveling at the Terra Cotta Soldiers, Tianenmen Square, the Summer Palace, the Li and Yangtze rivers, and all the natural and architectural and historic sites, we constantly encountered the unexpected.

HALLOWEEN Trick or Treat...In both Hong Kong and China, 
we found evidence of Halloween celebrations. 
A street market in Hong Kong offered scary pastries and 
vendors in costume. When we arrived at our hotel in Xi'an, China, 
it was Halloween night. Costumed staff greeted us 
with light-up skull pins left over from a celebration. 

Uniforms, backpacks, phones and vigilant teachers.
FIELD TRIPS  are the same everywhere in the world, it seems. Our first day in Beijing, we visited Tianenman Square and found ourselves touring behind a school field trip. The students' bright blue uniforms made them easy to spot. Ten-year-old chatter and antics are universal!

Muslim Quarter Market

Outside Gullin, we visited a 350-year-old
house where two widowed sisters-in-law 
lived. Their children had built them a
new home, but they preferred to live
here, in what was originally a general's
home. They proudly showed us their
possessions, including a coffin!

Our second day in Xian we visited the
Muslim Quarter of that city, which is on the eastern edge of the Silk Road. We learned that there has been a sizable Muslim population in that region for over 1000 years, a result of the Silk Road trade route.

Widow proudly displays her coffin made by a son.

Wherever we went, people wanted their photo taken with our group's redhead or with our tallest white-haired Gweilo. At the Three Gorges Dam park, several "redheads" got in the act.
At the Three Gorges Dam, a group shot of redheads!

                          Shanghai Book Store's Children's Book Section
Like a giant Barnes and Noble, the Shanghai
Book Store is seven stories of every
imaginable book genre, plus games
and puzzles, stationery and cards, and, of
course, a Starbucks. While we sipped our
latte and herbal tea, we enjoyed Christmas
music. So there we were in Shanghai listening to
Feliz Navidad. Surprise!

We had trouble finding the store and
stopped at a police station for help.
No one there spoke English but we
were able to convey what we were looking for
and a police woman walked us to the corner
and pointed down the street. Surprise!