Monday, January 11, 2016

Hiking Mount Equinox

Some of you know that I have an aversion to hiking mountains that have roads up them.  There's something about sweating your way up a mountain to find a parking lot with people sitting on rocks all cool and comfy. 

For this reason, when my Adirondack Mountain Club friend and fellow leader, Karen, suggested a year or so ago that I lead a hike up Mount Equinox in Manchester,Vermont, I resisted.

Then, this past September, Karen led a trip to Equinox. I read the write-up she posted in our chapter outings schedule: "The trail rises through a very old forest directly to the imposing summit.  The property is owned by the Carthusian monks, who dedicate themselves to prayer and solitude.  The decaying old hotel at the top has been taken down, and the Carthusian order has built a beautiful open sunlit and green building for the public to enjoy the views and learn about their order, a place of repose and quiet."

That sold me.  I wasn't available the day of Karen's hike, so I put Equinox on my must-do list.  When I emailed Karen to tell her that I planned to hike Equinox, she wrote back, "You'll want to join the Carthusian order after going through their building."

(Not your typical trail head parking!)

Manchester is not far from Albany. On Election Day, this past November, my friend, Rachel, and I headed to Vermont for the hike. The day dawned clear, with unseasonably mild hiking temperatures.  We pulled into the parking lot behind the very old and luxurious Equinox Hotel and began the hike through the edge of town and into the woods.

(A very nicely made trail kiosk)

November can be a great time to hike.  With the leaves down, the woods are open, and views through the trees, otherwise not visible during the foliage seasons, make the hike interesting.  Dappled sunshine lit up the beech leaves still clinging to the trees and those at our feet.

The second highest mountain in Southern Vermont, Mount Equinox offers a trail with an elevation gain of nearly 3000 feet in just over three miles.   The first two miles are on an old mountain road, with a cobbly stone surface. Even though we set a steady moderate pace, the relentless upgrade occasionally left us panting.

(Although beautiful, this photo does not show how steep the incline is.)

We chatted the whole way.  Well, I chatted some and Rachel more.  She is much better at talking and breathing than I am!

Rachel is a stalwart  hiker, who has not only hiked the 46 Adirondack high peaks and the 111 Northeastern peaks, but she lived and worked at Yosemite National Park for three years.  She could ride on that reputation for the rest of her life, but, instead, regularly proves that she still has the stamina and natural ability to do just about anything.

(Those Vermonters know where to place a nice bench.)

We began to tire of the ongoing road. While beautiful, its sameness and steady incline began to feel relentless.  We were glad when we saw the sign for a turn-off onto a more rustic hiking trail, the final mile to the mountain summit.  Finding a bench at the junction seemed so "New England,"... a far cry from the typical Adirondack "sittin' stone."

(A relief from the road.)

This trail provided a nice change -- lined with mosses and young hemlocks, narrow and varied with twists and turns through the woods.  What a surprise and shock, then, as we emerged from the trees, to see first, not a view, but a parking lot.  Welcome to the paved summit!

Walking straight to the doors of the building, we tried every one.  Locked!  What!?  We wouldn't decide to be monks after all?  A sign on the door said that the Viewing Center would re-open in May.

(The Saint Bruno Viewing Center)

A cold wind whipped.  We dug into our packs for layers of clothing that we had shed early on.  Walking along the deck of the building, we found a place to sit on the cement floor out of the wind, feeling somewhat let down.

Two motorcyclists arrived.  They greeted us and then retreated to another sheltered location.  We smelled the pungent aroma of marijuana.

(The Visitor's Center has a deck all the way around.)

Once we felt revived from having lunch, were relaxed from a sit-down (even if it was on cement), and had dressed in all of our warm clothes, Rachel and I were ready to more thoroughly explore the summit.  First, we read the signs posted on the deck.  A map designated the names of the surrounding mountains.  We peeked in the Viewing Center's glass windows. The inside definitely appeared inviting. We would have to come back, so that we could appreciate the owners of this mountain, and the building they had built to commemorate their faith.

(Views from the deck are stunning.)

Views spread out in many directions. We realized, now, that the deck served the purpose of raising visitors just high enough to see for miles. We reveled in the beauty stretched out before us.  I had not expected southern Vermont to look so wild.  Rows and rows of blue ridges appeared infinite. We took pictures, and stood and stared, until the cold wind crept through our layers of clothing. We knew that we had to get moving.

(Could this be mistaken for the Blue Ridge Mountains down south, instead of our local Greens?)

We chose to vary our descent by taking an off-shoot to the Overlook Trail, promising us more views from rocky outcroppings.  Within a short distance we came upon this stone, constructed in memory of Mr. Barbo, the beloved dog of Dr. Davidson, who once owned the property.  Dr. Davidson was heart-broken when his dog was shot by a hunter in 1955. We were sure Barbo had lived a good life over his 12 years as the doctor's companion, despite his tragic end.  And Dr. Davidson goes down in history for having given the gift of these 7000 mountain acres to the Carthusian monks.

(Mr. Barbo, 1943-1955)

During World War I, having just completed his doctorate in chemistry, Dr. Davidson worked on the development of mustard gas.  During World War II, he worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, refining uranium for the future atomic bomb.  Although he felt strongly that the bomb had been a necessary evil, those who knew him wondered if his interest in helping the Carthusians was part of a need for atonement.

The Carthusians are a 900-year-old Roman Catholic monastic order devoted to silence, solitude, and contemplation.  Dr. Davidson's friendship with a Carthusian Brother gave his post-war land-conservation interest a greater purpose.

(Why did hikers in 1883 choose this particular rock in the woods for carving?)

Rachel and I continued along the comfortable needle-covered ridge path on its gradual descent. Half-buried in dirt and moss, a flat carved rock offered testament to hikers here over a century ago.  At that time, they might have been out for the day or been guests at the small Mountain House that existed here in the late-19th century.

(Rachel at one of the overlooks)

We liked this path.  It smelled of evergreens and opened to a couple of beautiful views.  On a day like this day, lunch at one of these view points would have been more comfortable than at the windy summit.  These spots might also be quieter on a summer day when tourists are more numerous.

Every view on this hike had been so different from the previous one. Here, we could see the town with its church spire in the Village of Manchester, and roads that spread beyond to farms and mountains. This view begged for binoculars.

(Manchester Center below)

We had to be careful hiking down the old road that we had ascended hours before, with its dense layer of leaves covering loose rocks.  Walking on "ball bearings," as Rachel called a stony down slope like this. 
When we reached the parking lot where our day had begun, we decided to go inside the Equinox Hotel, as suggested by the brochure at the kiosk.  The doorman did not question our attire, despite the contrast we made to the formal decor.  We poked in a few rooms, but were especially taken with the diningroom, which had views to the mountain.  Three women passed us with large rolling luggage, as we left the hotel through its elegant front entrance.

(Iconic Vermont as we reach the edge of town on our return.)
On the ride home, we discussed our day. I had an appreciation for the access that the Equinox toll road, the Skyline Drive, provided to others, but I continued to be surprised by the completely developed appearance of the summit. Other mountains that have scenic toll roads, such as Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts and Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks, retain some of their natural landscape, despite their motorized access.

With the addition of the Overlook Trail, our entire hike had been 7.8 miles. Having a significant elevation gain, the mountain had taken us 2.5 hours to hike up, and 1.75 to descend.  I would definitely come back and hike Equinox again when the Viewing Center was open, maybe with an eager crew of Adirondack Mountain Club participants. However, if you want to drive up the mountain, the toll road costs $15 for the car and driver, and an additional $5 for each passenger.

Regardless of how you get there, these views are worth the trip!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Boogie into Christmas!

My friend, Peggy, grabbed the arm of my chair and rolled her eyes.  I tried not to giggle.  This was the most unusual piano recital I had ever attended, but at least now I understood how she and I fit into this mixed-up group.

A few weeks before, Peggy and I were practicing Christmas violin duets to play for my parents, our third duet concert for them this year, when she said, with some hesitancy, "A friend of mine asked me if we could play our duets at her students' piano recital at the Beverwyck Senior Community."  Middle-aged women playing violin duets at a student piano recital?

"My friend, Shirley, is 99 years old," Peggy explained, "and she still teaches piano.  She thought we could add some variety to the program."  A 99 year old, still teaching?

I couldn't refuse.  If anything, I owed Peggy, since she is so generous, sharing music with my parents.  Still, I was baffled by what seemed like an incongruous concert.

We pared our Christmas repertoire of seven melodies down to four for the recital.  Our "interlude" was to last only 5 to 7 minutes.  We timed ourselves and would play "Silent Night" twice through, "Coventry Carol," "Simple Gifts," and "Jingle Bells Boogie," each once.

We both arrived appropriately early for the event, so Peggy pointed out various people to me. Shirley, who sat with her cane, held court.  Peggy went to speak to her, and I followed, thinking I would introduce myself.  I never got the chance. Shirley was surrounded.

Shirley's granddaughter, an attractive woman of about 40, seemed to be keeping track of the time and protocol.  Her young son, would play a violin piece at his great-grandmother's student concert.  Inclusion of a violin student, even with his family connection, was an additional clue that this was not a typical piano recital.

The recital began and piano students began to play.  All of their pieces were memorized, and they showed recital nerves, making occasional mistakes, but getting back on track a few measures later.  The audience, a mix of young parents, grandparents, and community residents, applauded for each student enthusiastically.

When the great-grandson stood up, violin in hand, a woman, who had been introduced earlier as hostess of the event as a resident of Beverwyck, sat down at the piano to accompany him.  The young boy played with confidence, but the accompanist could not stay with him.  She dropped out totally, coming back in at the wrong place, while the little violinist ran sixteenth notes up and down the violin's fingerboard.

When the piece ended, the accompanist apologized to the audience for not having had a chance to practice with the student.  She said that she hoped to do better on the second piece.  We hoped so too, but she did not.  It was worse.  By now, we wished the student were playing unaccompanied.  He plowed on. Peggy and I winced in pain.  I noticed that the student's parent had stopped recording the performance.

In the meantime, half a dozen adults and children opened the door quietly and came into the room.  They shuffled to the back near us, their feet inches from our open violin cases.  We both winced.  Chairs were brought in, even as students played.  We watched the feet of the newcomers and held our breath.

As the students played, I thought about our upcoming rendition of "Silent Night."  The song's real beauty, besides the melody and words, is its simplicity.  I began to think that this was not a good first piece for us.  I need a verse or two to relax when playing in front of people. "Silent Night" required a smooth gentle tone.  I worried that I might be a little shaky at first--too late to think about changing the order of our pieces now. They were printed right on the piano recital program.

And then the Beverwyck resident pianist returned.  She announced that she would play seven of the thirteen "Scenes from Childhood" written by Robert Schumann, and that she would describe each piece as she went along.  This is when Peggy gripped my chair. Whose recital was this anyway?  Everyone's, apparently!  The pieces and commentary dragged on.  Despite all, I suspected that the pianist may have been a very good soloist n her prime.

At long last, it was our turn.  I set up our stand and chairs, while Peggy gave a brief history of how we came to play together, having known one another most of our lives.

"Silent Night" went okay, not stellar, but passable.  "Simple gifts" was fun and lively. At "Coventry Carol," I confirmed with Peggy quietly, "Just once through?" She nodded yes, and we began.

The piece sounded good, in tune, but not quite right. We had determined weeks before that we would take turns playing melody or harmony and "Coventry Carol" required harmony from me. I forgot to drop down to the harmony, and we were both playing in a pure melodic unison, giving the piece a sort of angelic sound, but not what we had rehearsed.  When I eventually added the harmony, the music sounded so much more beautiful, that I wished we could play the piece twice.

Our final piece, "Jingle Bells Boogie," is pure fun.  Beginning with a swing harmony rhythm, the melody comes in with double stops, loud and lively, me playing melody this time.  To my surprise, Peggy began the opening rhythm twice as fast as we had previously practiced it. Fast is fun, and the piece is easy.  If she could keep the pace, I could too.

That horse raced with the open sleigh, zipping over the fields, and it was fun "to laugh and sing!"  At the end, we got a good round of applause.  One man called out, "Thanks, ladies!"  This concert had needed a bit of comic relief.

One student played after us, and then it was over.  I looked at my watch.  It had been a long concert.  What!?  We had only been here an hour?  Peggy spoke to a few people as she headed for the door.  This gave me just enough time to down two chocolate chip cookies from the refreshment table.

When we were in the parking lot, I laughed and said, "I couldn't believe the tempo you took for 'Jingle Bells!'  We flew through it!"  She looked nonchalant. "Oh," she said, "I didn't really think about it." And then she added, with a slight smile, "Anyway, it was time to be done."  It was, definitely.

In a few days, we are scheduled to play a morning duet performance for my parents in their Saratoga home.   "Silent Night" will be smoother, "Coventry Carol" will have proper harmony, and the horse in "Jingle Bells Boogie" can run as fast as he likes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Albany County Rail Trail

My friend, Claudia, introduced me to the newly paved section of the Albany County Rail Trail.  She said, "We need to walk it first, so that you can see all the interesting sections more slowly than you would on a bike."  Generally, walking a bike path is pretty deadly, but Claudia and I were long overdue for a visit, so I was glad to meet her in Delmar.  The path was, indeed, interesting, so, the following Saturday, I suggested to Bill that he and I ride it.

This rail trail has been in the works for a number of years.  It will eventually be paved for nine miles, from Albany to Voorheesville, a rural hill-town in Albany County.  For commuters along the way, the trail will offer an entirely new and safe way to ride a bike to work.  And for the rest of us, it will provide one more pleasant biking experience in the Capital Region.

(finding a starting point on the partially paved trail can be tricky)

Thanks to my first visit with Claudia, I was able to find the starting location for Bill and me. Just off of Elsmere Avenue in Delmar, we parked the car behind the VFW building.  Construction equipment left for the weekend gave us hope that continued progress is being made on the trail daily.

From here we had three miles of pavement, a bit short for a Saturday ride, at only six miles round trip, but enough on a cold blustery Halloween day.

(This section begins in a residential section of Delmar.)

Rail trails offer the casual biker a fairly flat ride.  My sister, a rail trail afficionado, has told me that trains in the old days could only run at a maximum 3% grade, which accounts for modern rail trails having very gradual ups and downs.  Heading north, as we were, the trail has a slight descent, not enough to make us concerned about the uphill return.

(Once past the houses, the trail passes through woodlands.)

With the foliage off most of the trees, we could see into ravines on either side, where the terrain became more rugged.  In the spring, early wildflowers likely grace the trail's edge.

(A tributary below flows into the Normanskill Creek and on to the Hudson River.)

Before long, we reached a bridge over the Normanskill Creek, which flowed calm and placid beneath, in a dull green-gray color. No migrating water birds could be seen, but I imagined that they landed here often during their travels.

(Bill approaches a bridge over the Normanskill.)

I was curious about a short path that went down to the water, just beyond the bridge, and left my bike to check it out.  A huge log parallel to the riverbank looked like the perfect spot to spend some quiet time.

My musings were squelched, however, when Bill pointed out a posted sign, indicating that this was private land belonging to the Noonans, a longtime Albany family of far-reaching political fame.  I remembered that the 60-acre Noonan compound, for sale with multiple family homes, had recently been in the news as a possible location for a Casino.  In the end, the state did not choose this property for a Casino; and we, the walking and biking public, could enjoy the water and woods here, even if only from a distance.

(Wouldn't this be a cool spot on a hot day, if it were not off limits?)

The real surprise on this short stretch of paved trail, is the raging torrent that the Normanskill becomes.  The water pounds through and over dark rocks--such an abrupt and dramatic change from the quiet section of the creek we had just passed.

(The Normanskill passes through a brief period of fury.)

This scene is unfortunately disturbed by the thruway overpass directly overhead.  Separating the natural beauty from the traffic noise above is next to impossible. Still, I had never seen this part of the creek until Claudia brought me here, and I could appreciate the width, breadth, and power of the water in this section as it heads towards the Hudson River.

(Gorgeous foliage and the thruway above.)
Continuing on, we glimpsed the creek a few more times. How close the trains must have come to the edge of the steep bank.  I had almost no room to park my bike and peer through the trees for the picture below. 

(Final views of the Normanskill before reaching Albany.)
Stopping to take pictures slows me down, and I saw Bill far ahead cruising amidst an entirely new geological formation.  Those long ago railroad builders had blasted their way through solid rock. Before the thruway stretched above, train travelers must have marveled at the variety of terrain within such a short distance.

(Bill is a speck in the distance.)

Eventually, we could see the Port of Albany, and businesses nearby.  A traffic light and a nice parking lot signaled the trail's end at South Pearl Street in Albany.

(An official trail head at South Pearl Street.)

I was not very familiar with South Pearl Street, and felt a little disoriented.  Where were we in relation to those state offices in downtown Albany, the destination for many future commuting bikers?  I decided to continue riding on the the street to see what I could see. Within a few minutes, I recognized the Ezra Prentice public housing complex, where "bomb trains" come within a few feet of the backyards in which children play.

(See those black train cars in the background?)

I had been here last year to attend a memorial for the victims of the Lac Megantic explosion in Quebec, where trains carrying oil-by-rail left 47 dead.  An anti-bomb train rally followed the somber memorial. The proximity of the oil-filled train cars to the houses was shocking when viewed in person, as compared to seeing this scene on television or in newspaper photos.

(Tidy yards with outdoor grills on the left, bomb trains on the right.)

I turned back, now that I knew where I was in relation to the new path, met up with Bill who had waited at the parking lot, and began the three-mile return to where our car was parked.

(A bit of sunshine lights up remaining fall color.)

When I reached the neighborhood of houses, I veered off the trail and rode on a parallel street, admiring these modest homes.  I passed a man raking leaves, another checking his car, everyone doing end-of-season chores.  I also passed front steps laiden with jack-o-lanterns.  Bill and I needed to get home.  Ghosts and goblins might be arriving at our house on this last day of October!

(Suburban charm)

Later that evening, I was still curious as to how far commuters would have to ride on busy streets before reaching their workplaces, and what plans might be in place to ensure bikers' safety.  To find out, I emailed the Conservation Chair of the Adirondack Mountain Club. who has been working with other groups to secure funds to extend the path.  He sent me a detailed map of how the trail will connect with the well-established Mohawk-Hudson Bike Hike Trail by the Hudson River in Albany.

He said that a cost projection needs to be determined and a grant written, since there's funding in the waterfront revitalization component of the Environmental Protection Fund.  Progress always comes down to money,  time, and the efforts of many concerned citizens working together, but, eventually, there will be a safe connection through the southern end of the City of Albany to downtown and the Mohawk-Hudson trail.

In the meantime, I have to thank Claudia for inspiring Bill and me to ride this finished portion of trail, while we wait for the other six miles to be completed through the countryside to Voorheesville.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What I Did Last Summer

I am torn between the words of my friend, Rachel, "You should write about your amazing year. When you see your life, there is before 2015 and there will be after 2015," and those of my mother, "Why would anyone be interested in reading about your life?"  Guess whose words are winning out?  In fact, the events of the past five months have been so consuming, that I have nothing else to talk about.  So, here's hoping you find this post to be an enjoyable read.

In mid-winter, when my son, Thomas, and his wife, Marlie, announced that they were expecting a baby in early fall, and my daughter, Meredith, and her fiance, Brian, announced that their wedding date would be in late summer, I knew this would be a stand-out year.  And these were not the only events.  Meredith and I intended to finish our 15-year quest of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, and I had a 90th birthday party planned for my mother.  I began to make lists, and more lists, and lists to replace the lists that I lost.

The summer did have a few glitches: Bill had surgery on his right hand, that is still healing, and my father had a few health issues, both pesky and scary.  But, now in October, I look back and see a summer of friends, family, and festivities. The following is a photo journal of my spectacular past five months.
I thoroughly enjoyed the preparations for Meredith's bridal shower in mid-June.  It was just my style--simple, with a dozen close friends and family, and all food that I had prepared.  I had requested that guests give Meredith something from their own homes that they felt would be meaningful.  Many of them did, and those who did not, gave her gifts that were equally heart-felt and personal.  Every gift had a story.
(Marlie was in charge of the "bar.")

(lunch began with Watermelon Gazpacho)

(Meredith, the bride-to-be, on our porch with her gifts)

The day after the shower, Meredith and I headed north to hike our forty-fifth and forty-sixth mountains.  Our transition from ladies to woodswomen was abrupt, but underscored our versatility. We felt fortunate to be able to cater to these different aspects of our personalities.

Our first peak, Sawteeth, was fun, even though we hiked in a drizzle with no views.  We were excited about our plans to hike our final peak the following day, and I had booked indoor lodging--no backpacking and camping on this final adventure!
(Meredith shows off the completely clouded view)

Unfortunately, the next day dawned dry and clear, as predicted, and then turned to torrential cold rain. Hiking our 46th peak on this day did not meet our expectations. We were deflated and exhausted.  Despite my "46" sign, don't I look like a waif from a Charles Dickens' novel?  I would fit right in on an 1800s London street corner, begging passersby for a roll to eat.

And then, who should arrive an hour after we got off the trail, all the way from Syracuse to the Adirondak Loj, but our friends, June and Roger.  They were excited for us, and began to sweep us into the mood of what we had accomplished, with gifts, a card, and their overwhelming good cheer and generous spirit.

(Clean and dry, we are surprised by friends, June and Roger at the Loj.)
Three days after Meredith's and my return from the Adirondacks, Bill and I headed west to the Canadian Rockies' national parks of Banff and Jasper.  If this trip had not been planned months before, I doubt that it would have happened.  And yet what a getaway--gorgeous scenery, time together in a beautiful place, and all the gifts that nature and charming towns can provide.
(Moraine Lake in Banff National Park)

July was not to take a backseat to June.  My Aunt Dorothy's arrival from Toronto, to coincide with my mother's 90th birthday, began with lunch at my house.  My friend, Peggy, and I had been working on violin duets to play for my parents and aunt, on the porch.  What fun!  Music, food, and great conversation.
(My friend, Peggy, and I serenade my parents and aunt.)

(Chicken salad and fresh summer fruits)

And then came the party.  I hosted 10 of us at the Spa Park for a "hot dog" picnic, my mother's request for her birthday dinner, and then 19 of us for cake.  The muggy weather made me fear for the "Yaddo" cake that I had created to recognize one of my mother's long-enjoyed hobbies, working in the gardens there.  But rain held off, the family came from near and far, and the cake received rave reviews, both for its decoration and for being our favorite chocolate with mocha frosting.
(My re-creation of a Yaddo statue and rose arbor.)

(Bill grilling hot dogs at the Spa Park)

(My mother, father, and aunt)

And what did Meredith and I do next??  We headed back to the high peaks, to rectify our previous disappointment.  We felt fit and energetic, the sun shone, the atmosphere was clear, we soaked in the iconic views, and reveled in our accomplishment.  We considered this the true completion of our 46er journey.  To top it off, Gillian Scott, a columnist for the Times Union, wrote about our adventure for the newspaper.  I am still, months later, being congratulated, thanks to the widespread press we got locally and through Facebook.
(This is the iconic view of Mounts Colden and Marcy from Algonquin on the way to our final peak, Iroquois.)

(Meredith and I were thrilled with this hike.)

Marlie's baby shower began the month of August.  Marlie's mother, Nancy, and I had scoped out locations for the event, and chose the Olde English Pub in the Quackenbush House in downtown Albany.  Nearly forty people came and shared in the excellent brunch there, finishing with frosted rose-topped cupcakes that I made for the event.  Marlie had everything she would need for the baby.

(Thomas and Marlie, expectant first-time parents!)

(Four dozen cupcakes, in two flavors)

In mid-August, Bill and I went down to OWO, One World Observatory, to see Thomas's new work place.  As Director of Finance for OWO in the new One World Trade building, Thomas gave us the VIP tour on this clear summer day.  Unbelievable views, a delicious lunch overlooking the city, and sharing part of Thomas's day at this phenomenal new New York destination, left us awe struck.
(The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and boats on the Hudson, from 102 stories up!)

(Thomas taking time from his work day to show us around.)

And what a finish August had!  Meredith's wedding could not have been more perfect for her and Brian.  In the dress she made, Meredith looked fabulous and glowed all day long.  Marlie made the cake, a masterpiece and an incredible gift, especially considering how far along she was in her pregnancy.  This day was filled with love, fun, music, and all that parents could wish for their daughter's wedding.
(We walked  from Meredith's Brooklyn apartment to the wedding venue.)

(Meredith and Brian)

(Marlie is a professional pastry chef.)

September dawned bright, but by the 3rd, Marlie was on bed rest in the hospital. Apparently, the baby wanted to join our party summer.  Hayden Sophia Traver was born just three weeks early, on September 19 and weighed 6 lbs. 12 oz.  Could 2015 get any better than this?
(Marlie, Thomas, and baby Hayden)

(Virginia strokes Hayden's silky soft skin.)

(Bill examines Hayden's tiny toes.)

And now, I have just returned from a week in New Jersey, helping Marlie since Thomas has gone back to work and Marlie's mother has returned to Albany.  What a joy!  Hours passed by and all I did was hold little Hayden.  Her warm fuzzy head and her little coos and gurgles filled my days.

Marlie tells me that I was, in fact, a help to her.  I didn't just spend my time on the couch cuddling my first grandchild, but it was all fun having so much time with Marlie and Hayden, and snatching moments in the evenings with Thomas.

And now?  What's left for this year?  Life is the current project.  Momentous events lead to a new daily world.  Summer 2015 will always have a special place in our history.