Category Archives: travel

Volunteer at Montezuma Castle

He is 94 years old and still enjoying his job as a guide at Montezuma Castle, home of ancient cave dwellers in Arizona. We came upon him as we explored the cave dwellers’ park and were so fascinated by his stories we hung around his post way past our turn.

IMG_0810

Charles and Will talking to our 94 year old guide

He readily took time to explain to us what we’d see if we could climb far up the limestone cliff and enter one of the caves occupied six centuries ago by people seeking safety from marauding neighbors. Yes, we would see hieroglyphics and handprints of the women and children who plastered the walls periodically. We would see various rooms and added ledges. We would see storage areas where the folks placed their dried meats and vegetables.

This tough yet amazingly smooth-faced gentleman explained how the cave dwellers lived. The women worked the crops and kept the home caves while the men went hunting. The hunt was not over in a few days. During the weeks or months they were gone, the women had to pull the ladders up the cliffs each night to keep enemies away. The cliffs are high and sheer.

Our guide waxed very enthusiastic describing the mens’ hunt. First, they had to secure a supply of salt mined from a deposit a few miles away. Then, armed with sharp knives and some jerky from the last hunt, they would strike out to find game. They might have to walk many miles before they found anything. When they made a kill of antelope, lion, or bison, rabbit, bear, or muskrat, they had to butcher, salt and dry the meat into portions that would keep. This took weeks, even months.

He went on to tell us there were inner storage chambers which could only be entered through a hole in a cave. This is where they kept some of their supplies. Our guide himself some years ago, heard about a hieroglyphic sample in one of those underground storage rooms and proposed to fellow workers that they put him down through the hole so he could take a picture. He isn’t a very large man but even so his going down became quite difficult. His helpers were lowering him by his hands until the opening narrowed so much he had to release one hand and wiggle himself on down. He took the picture, he said, and then faced the challenge of climbing back out.

Before we could hear the end of his climbing-out story, our guide was surrounded by a new group of interested inquirers and we had to move on. We only heard a chuckle as it was implied he might have had to strip and grease himself from head to toe.

In the midst of his very in-depth explanation of early Indians’ life, this gentleman told us a little about himself. He had retired because his wife had begun falling and he felt he needed to stay close to her. Then he grinned as he pulled a small electronic device from his pocket. “I found this miracle solution to our problem. She can buzz me on this and I’ll go straight home. I think she was as pleased as I was to get me out of the house again.” He went on to tell us how he drives himself to the park and walks a good distance every day, maybe only a couple of miles as compared to five before his retirement. “These young people in their seventies,” he said, “don’t exercise enough and they get old way too young.”

IMG_0822

Here are some of us at the Cliffs: Charles,  Nana, Mattie, William Jr., and Thomas in hat

Our time at Montezuma Castle National Monument, part of our wonderful National Park Service, was fun for adults and children. The trees and plants were well marked so we learned names of several, or verified our speculations. Shady big sycamores made walking in the Arizona heat more pleasant. Mexican Bird of Paradise was the most colorful in bright orange, but thick growths of pink and cream, yellow and orange lantana invited butterflies to blink amongst them. There were nice sturdy benches where we could sit and gaze up at the lofty Montezuma Castle caves.

The gift shop was, of course, a must before we left. I purchased a jar of prickly pear jelly and some blue corn pancake mix with prickly pear syrup. It was fun trying them out for breakfast this morning while we remembered the cliffs–and the 94 year old man who made it all so interesting.

Leave a comment

Filed under nature, travel

Scenes in Europe

I could hardly believe it when, back in February, Harley and Debi Rollins invited us to travel to England with them. We are just back now from three weeks in England, Scotland, and France, an incredible journey for anyone, especially for us at our mature 75 years!

My mind is full of strange and lovely, grim and dark, soothing and stimulating images. Of course, Charles and I both took pictures, lots and lots of beautiful pictures. But the best ones are in my head where I can bring them up for chuckles, exclamations and reviews whenever I please, without batteries, without buttons, swipes or cyber skill.

In this short blog today I’m only going to pull out a few of those images that I see in my head. There are many more! And first of all, my biggest point of gratitude is that God was with us all the way. I’ve been on lengthy journeys before but am most definitely not a seasoned traveler. I had a few fears leading up to this trip: becoming lost from my group, losing my passport, falling on one of those mile-high airport or train depot escalators, getting locked in a bathroom, or being arrested for shoplifting because I started out the door with a postcard in my hand. None of those things happened (though a few scary moments did occur!) and I’m so thankful.

As I flip through the images in my head, I’m thrilled again at seeing English country gardens so perfectly trimmed, redolent with roses, peonies, red hot pokers, sweet Williams, hollyhocks and green, green grass. I’m smiling in the rapture of viewing 75 Claude Monet paintings in the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square. I’m laughing in eagerness as Charles and I board a boat for the Thames River cruise. We’re all four–Charles, our friends Harley and Debi Rollins with whom we travelled, and I–stunned and amazed as our driver friend Dave Armstrong unexpectedly treats us to an adventurous ride through hectic downtown London late one evening. He even drove us down the wide avenue straight towards Buckingham Palace. When he saw a helicopter about to lift from the palace grounds, he whipped into a parking space so we could watch for a minute.

Visions of Portsmouth come to view: the stony shoreline, the carefully preserved ship Victory where Lord Nelson, though winning the battle, lost his life in the battle of Trafalgar, our laughter and Christian fellowship as we enjoyed that day with Gerry and Jean Davy and their family.

IMG_0444

Left to right: Harley Rollins, Gerry Davy, Debi Rollins, Jean Davy, Dave Armstrong, and Charles Graham. In the background beyond the rooftops is the English Channel.

 

The coast at Deal was so exciting I almost went rolling into the sea walking on the deep layers of water-smooth rocks. And the flowers! Imagine bright wildflowers so thick a little child walking through them was almost hidden, and beyond the flowers the shore, and then waves rolling in.  Dave and Pam White, dear wonderful missionaries, welcomed us there into their sweet bungalow.

We rode to France via the Chunnel. I’d been apprehensive about going so far under tons of water for the crossing. But it was quite fun, like riding an underground car ferry, and I didn’t even have time to worry. We spent two nights in a lovely little French village called Honfleur, a day visiting memorials on Normandy Beach and enjoying the French countryside. Then Paris for one day! What can you see of Paris in one day? You can ride a double decker bus and see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the river Seine, the Louvre, bridges, busy streets, shop windows, and then even enjoy dinner afterward at a lively corner café.

Our trip to Scotland by train was a joyful experience even if I did almost get train-left. The Scottish countryside is full of surprises: high smooth green hills dotted with a thousand sheep, craggy cliffs, curves that dip down to streams, high overlooks, clusters of farm buildings ready for a cold hard winter, little cozy villages with busy markets. It was a thrill to drive into the city of Edinburgh, to see the majestic dark castle atop its “unscalable” cliff, to see the old kirks, the cobbled streets and round-abouts. John Lewis was a great driver that day and seemed to take pleasure in showing us things that had meant a lot to him, like the “three bridges” at the Firth on Forth, an estuary of several Scottish rivers, or the Devil’s Beef Tub, an amazing very deep valley where legend has it that centuries ago Scottish men stole English cattle from across the line and brought them to that valley until they could make a profit on them.

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the cathedrals, the city sights, I see the faces of wonderful new and renewed friends: Jeff and Janet Rushton (?), Robert and Ann Smith, John Lewis, all the folks at Langham Publishers, Dave and Mathilda Armstrong in Keston, Kent, and Andrew and Rachel , our hosts at Manna House in Bromley (the OM Mission House). These are all disciples of Jesus, involved in some way or another in sending Christian literature to third world countries as are the folks I mentioned in Portsmouth and Deal. It was inspiring to catch even a glimpse of their networking endeavors. It was a joy to hear Harley and Debi connecting with so many they have worked with their whole career as missionaries with Operation Mobilisation, Send the Light, and more. Many of their friendships go back to serving together on the Ship Logos in the 1970’s.

Yes, I bought postcards (and didn’t get arrested!) and souvenirs, and took tons of pictures. But when I close my eyes I can see fields of lavender, craggy cliffs, and narrow curvy cobbled village streets.

Soon, I hope to write more on what we saw and experienced, perhaps “An English Country Garden,” “Winchester Cathedral,” “Walking the White Cliffs,” “A Village Named Honfleur,” and details about  “A Cold Day on Normandy Beach.”

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Basket Weaver

She was sitting on a bench outside a busy little gift shop in Grand Cayman. Her hands gracefully wove flat rushes in and out as we talked to her. Beside her were numerous baskets she had made. I asked if I might take her picture to which she agreed, giving me a warm smile.

IMG_20180409_120556787

I examined her baskets while Charles fished in his pocket for a tip to give her for posing for me. The baskets were so neatly made, all of the same dried pale green reeds. She told us her grandson goes to a swampy area to pick the reeds for her. All the time she talked her fingers danced in and out, in and out, creating strips she then wound together and sewed. She didn’t have to look at what she was doing–like a knitter creating a familiar pattern.

Others in our touring group were inside the shop tasting samples of rum cake and buying tins of it as well as other souvenirs. We had tasted the cake and were happy now to be talking to this beautiful island lady. I just wish we had taken more time with her. I didn’t even learn her name, nor how long she’s been weaving, nor whether she works at the same shop every day, nor just how long it takes to make a basket.

But I did learn something very important about her.

I asked her if she knew Jesus in her heart. The most radiant smile lit her face. “Oh, yes!” she said. “I couldn’t live without Him. He helps me through every day.” Charles gave her a little booklet about eternal life suggesting she might give it to someone else. She hugged it to her chest and fairly bubbled with glee.

I purchased one of her baskets and now I’m wondering to whom I’ll give it. I really want to keep it myself! Not that I need it for remembering her face!

IMG_0399

When we left, I wanted to hug her but knew it would be too bold and so I refrained.

Only a few minutes we spent with this bright lady on Grand Cayman whose name I do not know. But I will always remember her and I know she is my sister in Christ.

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Journey With Two Mothers

When we left Habersham County, Georgia, in our beige 1985 Buick that beautiful October Sunday in 1990, we carried precious cargo: both our mothers. We were bound for Niagara Falls, a veterinary convention in Rochester, New York, and for New England and the rocky coast of Maine. My mother was 86 and dependent on a walker. Charles’s mom was only 65 but had a bad knee and was expecting to have a complete knee replacement after that trip.

Mama Graham (Elizabeth) had dreamed of going to Niagara Falls. My mother (Eula) had a great longing to visit the rocky coast of Maine. We had proposed the trip almost a year ahead so they could anticipate and plan.

As it turned out, Eula had a very bad fall the January before our trip. She crushed a vertebrae which put her into severe pain and a lengthy hospitalization. She de-scribed her pain as “worse than birthing any of her eleven babies.” I realized she wouldn’t be able to travel, that we would all just be thankful if she could walk again and put on her big signature Saturday morning breakfasts. But one day as I leaned over her to adjust her pillow she whispered, “I have to get well so I can go on that trip.”

And get well she did, though she never was able to do without her walker.

Our mothers each chose a side of the Buick’s rear seat, made their “nest” as Elizabeth described it, and declared that would be their place from then on. When we tried to switch around and give them each turns in the front for a better view, they held tight to their places. We worked out a system for getting in the best handicapped, or at least possible, bathrooms–meaning, Charles would park temporarily while I ran in and scoped the place. If I gave a thumbs-up we’d begin unloading the walker and, in some instances, my mother’s toilet seat extender (in a bag!). Remember, handicap facilities were not a given in those days. All up the eastern seaboard, we found McDonald’s to be our winner. They had the best restrooms!

Charles and I had experienced Niagara Falls’ greatness two years before this. But seeing it through our mothers’ eyes was even more awesome. Charles rented a wheelchair for Eula and we walked down toward the overlook. I had a sudden overwhelming fear that Charles was going to lose control of the wheelchair and my mother would go flying off the cliff. But my mother had no such fear. She and Elizabeth were spellbound and not just because of the tremendous roar. They were taking in everything in total awe. It was late afternoon. There were rainbows. It was stunning, incredible, so beautiful. It was, to me, like heaven, simply unbelievable. Could we possibly be actually sharing this experience with our mothers? It was one of those moments when you almost hold your breath for fear you’ll wake and find it was only a dream.

Scan0039

Charles with our two mothers at Niagara

 

I saw a hotel over on the Canadian side right by the Falls, a brand new nine or ten story ho0tel with windows overlooking the Falls. Charles and I decided we would see if there were a room for us in that hotel. Miracles had already happened, maybe this one too. The clerk at the desk said yes and we took it! I will never forget our thrill when we walked in that generous room and discovered the view overlooking the Falls from a bay window with seats. Three of us went to dinner. My mother said please to let her stay in that window absorbing the view and writing cards to all her other children. She’d be happy with whatever take-out we brought her.

The moon was full that night. We could hardly make ourselves go to bed!

Contrary to the planning of the rest of our journey, we did have a room reserved at the convention hotel in Rochester. Our room was on the mezzanine level which meant we could walk out our door into a beautiful courtyard on the fifth floor. There were fountains and flower gardens and nice benches here and there. We three girls thoroughly enjoyed that place while Charles went to his meetings and seminars.

Ours was the last car on the ferry across Lake Champlain. Charles, Elizabeth, and I went up on deck but Eula happily stayed with the car and, because of our being last on, she could see out.

Riding through Vermont and New Hampshire in the autumn, we were in a constant state of celebration. Every turn in the road brought a new aaah or oooh. It was so much fun just seeing everything together. Even the signs were an adventure, especially when we realized we were passing an entrance to the Appalachian Trail. We had to stop and take pictures there and think about the southern end of the trail near home in Georgia.

The little coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine, was cozy and bustling just as you’d expect it to be on an autumn morning in the fog. Charles chatted with locals outside while we girls shopped for souvenirs. He learned that we were seeing Bar Harbor at its most normal, fogged in!

In spite of the fog, we drove up the winding, steep road to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We’d talked about this adventure all the way from Georgia. Wouldn’t the sun come out and burn away the fog? It didn’t. We could barely see to park.

Back on the coast, Charles drove along slowly to let us see what we could. We looked for a place where Eula could see the waves crashing into the rocks. The rest of us walked down a steep path to see a Devil’s Cauldron, the water crashing in and shooting up spouts of white foam. Mamma said she could hear it and that was good enough.

Charles was determined we would see the view from Cadillac Mountain. So after lunch in a little seaside “cup up” spot, we climbed the mountain again, this time hoping so hard we could see out. A light rain had started falling. Maybe it would wash the fog away!

Again, no view. Nothing except fog so thick we felt smothered by it.

We left Bar Harbor area midafternoon and drove south along the coast. Suddenly the sun burst free of the clouds and we could see! Our mothers were like little girls in their glee. We drove around a point and could see President H.W.Bush’s home across the sound. We were at Kennebunkport. We took pictures and lingered there on the rocky coast of Maine.

Scan0036

Eula and Brenda at Kennebunkport

 

One of the highlights of our visit to Maine for Charles and me was eating lobster at a lobster pound. Not so for our mothers. They had clam chowder and looked at us as if we were murderers for eating poor lobsters dropped alive into boiling water.

On the way home we visited Washington for one day, Charles and his mother sightseeing, Mamma and I enjoying time with my niece. We drove through Amish Pennsylvania and then down to North Carolina where we spent our last night out with my sister. Mamma stayed there with her while the three of us headed for South Georgia.

This journey was a time to treasure in our hearts and remember fondly as we pay tribute to our dear mothers on every day, but especially on Mother’s Day.

2 Comments

Filed under travel

Caribbean Contemplations

Here on our porch in South Georgia with birds singing and the nearest seashore more than two hours away, it’s hard to believe we actually sailed across the Caribbean last week. But memories are lingering of a wide blue sea that stretched to the sky with no shoreline in sight, no tall buildings, no sailboats, most of the time not even a bird. The night sky was black, pricked with stars. We were lulled to sleep by the gentle, yet constant roll and throb of the ship making its way across the undulating waves.

Our ship was the Miracle, a vessel of the Carnival line. We were traveling from Port Tampa Bay to Grand Cayman Island to Roatan Isle in Honduras’s Mahogany Bay to Belize and, finally, Cozumel Island on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And then back to Tampa Bay!

Life on the ship was like no other experience. We had been on a couple of cruises before but each one is so different. With 2,300 passengers aboard, it seemed like a small town afloat. Nine hundred employees were constantly serving us in dining areas, in staterooms, on decks and giving us talented entertainment each night. We found ourselves in a fairyland. Everywhere we went these beautiful people from the Philippines, from India, from Indonesia and France and England knew our names and greeted us like well loved friends.

IMG_0275

Charles on our balcony

 

Our stateroom was very pleasant and comfortable and even had a balcony. We often sat there to read or just talk and watch the waves. One day, far out at sea, I saw a small white bird flying. I tried to point him out to Charles who convinced me it couldn’t be a bird. Okay, we both have cataracts so I suppose we can see things that aren’t there, as well as missing things that are. But then I spied the little bird again, flying close above the whitecaps. I was really worried about that bird. Where would it ever rest? Why was it all alone? Charles sized up the situation thus: “He’ll be a nice bite for some hungry fish.”

Whole days at sea were fun. There was a wonderful sea day brunch in the main dining room. There was time to visit the library, the chapel, the putt-putt golf course, walk the decks in a strong wind, warm up at the coffee shop, study pictures in the art gallery and still have time for sitting on the balcony and even taking a nap. We also enjoyed conversations with many people, some gospel conversations, as we call them. We had prayed ahead of time for opportunities to share news of our Savior, and God opened many windows.

The excursions we chose were not at all what our children and grandchildren would have gone for. We didn’t go snorkeling or scuba diving though Belize and Cozumel are famous for their beautiful coral reefs. We didn’t choose to swim with the dolphins. My granddaughter says, “What’s wrong with you? I would have loved that!” “I don’t swim that well,” I told her to which she said, “But the dolphins would carry you.” “Yes, but where?” I asked her. We didn’t go zip lining as we knew our son would do. In fact, a couple of ladies our age were going zip lining for the first time ever. But we chose activities that wouldn’t throw us into having back surgery. We did mind expanding treks through the forest and along the seashore, took opportunities to study plants of the islands and see the beautiful birds. And we did have adventures!

In Grand Cayman we climbed down into a semi-submarine to visit a coral reef. We could view coral like an undersea garden–fantastic formations in wonderful colors, tunnels, mountains, groves of soft and hard coral with fish enjoying every twist and turn. The fish came right to our windows. We saw two old shipwrecks also. Later, on Grand Cayman I held a plate-size young sea turtle at the turtle center.

Our bus waddled through a narrow street of one tiny village in Honduras where people in tattered clothes smiled expectantly only inches away. We wandered with our guide in the Cerambula Gardens smelling allspice and cinnamon leaves, identi-fying a royal palm, and tasting fresh fruit. Our bus climbed high on rough roads till we could see far out, the blue waters of the Caribbean framed by mahogany trees, flowering ginger and other lush growth. We arrived at a small chocolate factory where the delightful scents almost overpowered us.

In Belize we rode with four others on a high powered air boat. We skimmed across a shallow lake at a hair pulling high speed, then stopped suddenly in a tunnel of mysterious, non-negotiable swamp growth where our very funny guide helped us identify some of the birds.

We both have chosen our excursion to Mayan ruins outside of Cozumel as our favorite. We had an excellent guide who lectured us most interestingly on the forty minute ride from the city to the ruins, as well as throughout our discovery of this 1,000 year old religious compound. Jorge, our guide, is himself 50% Mayan, his mother being full Mayan, his father Mexican. He is passionate about letting visitors know all they can about his people. For instance, the ruins are called Tulum, so named by a man from New Jersey. Tulum, he said, means “stinky place.” But Jorge says the Mayans call it Zommer (hope I got that right, Jorge!) which means sunrise. This is the first place in Mexico to receive the sunrise each day.

IMG_0331

Brenda and Charles hiking a cliff trail at Mayan ruins

 

We sat with the same folks each night in the formal dining room. It was fun getting to know Jay and Winnie Luckett from North Carolina and Edward and Madeline Noriega from Tampa. We all six enjoyed talking with our servers each night as we tried to choose the best appetizers and entrees–and desserts! The atmosphere was always charged with holiday spirit as we shared what we had done that day and what the next plan included. We shared pictures of our families on the last night and exchanged e-mails like happy campers.

IMG_0349

Our new friends the Lucketts to our right and the Noriegas to our left

 

The morning we approached Tampa coming back, I awoke to different sounds, ship whistles, a train in the distance, and, yes, water lapping the shore. Water lapping the shore was such a sweet and comfortable sound like Grandma sipping tea. I sat up quickly to look out. Sure enough, lights glistened on the shoreline. We stood on our balcony watching the drama of our ship’s docking.

Contemplations of the Caribbean–a thousand different shades of green and blue water, bright flowers, lovely dark faces, nimble fingers weaving palm fronds into baskets, sounds of music and dancing, throb and lull of the ship as it carried us safely through the nights, strangers who quickly became friends…..

My summary: God is good all the time and everywhere. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson (but not as a requiem!) “Home is the sailor home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under travel