Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Love I-R-E-L-A-N-D!

Tickets in hand, I thought there was nothing left to worry about other than what to pack.


Perusal of the fine print brought me bolt upright (from a relaxed, no worries posture.) Who knew that our destination requires that one's passport be valid for six months after one's return? Realizing that one is short of that mark by two months, one began to feel faint.

 Some deep breathing was deployed to restore one's equilibrium and attempt some logical thought.

What to do? Brainwave incoming ----Google, Google, Google! 

Obtained phone number for Irish Consulate in Atlanta. Logical, right? Called said consulate. Listened dejectedly to recorded message directing me to call consulate in NY instead.

Had I really hoped, expected, a human being to pick up the phone?  Actually, yes. I'm Irish.
An eternal optimist.

Called NY. No human beings available. Leave a message.

Left a message, being careful to b-r-e-a-t-h-e so as to sound cool, calm and collected, not frantic, which is how I felt. How many weeks would it be before a Leprecaun called me back? In my mind's eye I saw a long list of phone messages from Americans eager to travel to the Auld Sod and dig around for their roots. I figured my message was # 347 in the lineup.

Pulled my thinking cap down lower over my ears, the better to hear any Plan Bs my brain might suggest.
Silence for a while, then a humming sound as an alternate plan slowly took shape. 
Back to the web site and e-mail the blighters.

I then busy myself deleting old e-mails and general in-box housekeeping, when, quick as a blink, there's a reply! Addressing me by my first name no less, and instructing me to send my address asap so they can send me the necessary application.

I'm tempted to send hugs and kisses. 
Instead I reply with the requested information, adding that, being used to the bureaucracy and the slow movement of great bodies, I'm ecstatic at their speedy response.

I'm just pushing send when the phone rings. I glance at the caller I.D. All that registers is "Consulate..."  My heart jumps into my mouth from surprise and delight as I pick up the phone.

 Charles is his name. His accent solid Irish. He sounds a little bored, like it's been a long day and he's beyond ready to go home for his dinner. He tells me they will send the application and instructions as soon as I send them my address. I'm so full of plawmawss I think it cheers him up a bit. He laughs outright when I tell him he should be grateful I'm not there in person as I'd be hugging him.

"Don't worry," he assures me, "We'll get you a fast track renewal and you'll have it in plenty of time."

I am especially impressed, since, a few years ago, I tried to renew my green card on line and was scammed out of my fee by some fly-by-night organization, sounding very official but being, in fact, a bunch of thieves. It was a tortuous tangle and a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

Have I mentioned how much I love Ireland?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Beach Music

I think I've cracked the code. Just come to the beach. Bring your bucket and your shovel, a couple of big towels and your swimsuit. Oh, and don't forget some books. Nothing too cerebral, just easy beach reading. Leave clocks and watches back at the house. Tell your everyday life to hold its noise, you'll be back in a week.

First order of business is to walk along the beach. Even if it's late when you get there you can walk along the water's edge with the waves slapping your ankles....

.....and watch the sun go down, the best kind of multi tasking.

 Get some sand between your toes and listen for the music to start in your head.
Wear something short so you don't have to get the hem of your britches soaked by a sneak attack from a runaway wave. Soon the pounding of the waves will blend with that music in your head and wash you over with peace and tranquility.

I forgot to mention --- bring tea. It's important to have the means to make a nice cuppa before you crawl in between the covers and sleep like a baby, full of salty fresh air and sea spray.

Next morning get up, no alarm, just whenever you wake, and do it all again.

Be brave. Go swimming. It'll feel like bathwater, back to the womb, or at least to Ballybunion, fifty plus years ago, with the endlessly blue sky and the vast stretch of the strand and your dad dollacawling with the little stove in the hollow of a sand dune, out of the wind, brewing the best tea you ever tasted.....To go with the best sandwiches ever, made by your mum who was always dainty and cut off the crusts....

 'Cept its warmer here, the water more greeny-bluey-turquoise than grey-green. But the exhileration of outwitting the waves is the same. So, added bonus. You're not only subduing time, you're travelling back in it. And yet another bonus --- when you come out of the water your teeth won't chatter like they did way back then, and you won't be covered in goose bumps 'cause the air here is just as warm as the water. Then you can sit in your beach chair or lie on the sand and read your book or just gaze up at the sky and watch the gulls wheeling by.

And if it's raining, as it is today, you just make another cup of tea and curl up on the couch that isn't yours but comfy just the same, and lose yourself in the romantic entanglements of your beach book, confident that, for now at least, you have subdued time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Made in America

Local art and hand made soaps

It used to be that that little tag from the Garment Workers of America, stitched into unobtrusive seams in shirts, trousers, skirts etc.was a guarantee that you were buying something made in America, by American workers, and you could feel a small bit of satisfaction in supporting the national economy, or at least helping someone in America to remain employed and able to support his or her family. In recent decades that little tag is as hard to find as feathers on a fish, worthy of a place in the Smithsonian.

A few casual hours at the mall would convince you that nothing is made in America anymore. Everyone I know has had the experience of thinking they've found the perfect gift for a friend's birthday, or a souvenir of a local place they've visited, only to turn it over and groan. "Made in China" automatically makes it a less than perfect choice.

But I have good news!

Heading home through Kentucky after a visit to Lily and family we spotted a sign for this off the highway.....

Walking in the Door

Beautiful hand blown glass
.....and quickly exited. In his former, unretired life, the OC would have been hard to persuade as he'd have been fixated on how quickly we could get home. No persuasion was needed however, and before we knew it we were walking in the door. If you were beginning to think that we didn't know how to make anything in America anymore a visit here would convince you otherwise. Kentucky, at least, is bristling with creative artists and craftsmen. Have a peek......

One of a kind pottery pieces

Unique fiber arts and quilts
More beautiful pottery
Hand painted silk scarves

We came away with some Kentucky bacon for our aspiring chef who thinks there is no dish that cannot benefit from the addition of bacon, some locally made chocolates (only two left as of this writing!) some beeswax candles, and restored confidence that there are artists and craftsmen aplenty in Kentucky, and all across the country, making beautiful and useful things, breathing new life into ancient crafts, each one putting his unique, creative stamp on each piece of his work and causing people like me to smile twice --- once at the beauty and craftsmanship of the object and  again, with delight, on turning it over and seeing that it was "Made in America."

Monday, September 01, 2014

Blind in One Eye, Can't See Out of the Other

My excuse is I'm savoring life. Don't want to miss anything. If I maintain a sedate pace, I reason, I'll see it all, live it all, experience it all. But, in reality, my sedate pace means that I think it should be March while the calendar adamantly insists it's September already.

Today is Labor Day, summer's end, though summer will linger on here a few months longer. How did that happen? Was I not paying close enough attention? Long ago, September meant new books, the smell of leather, walking home in fading light, the chore of polishing school shoes every night, cozy fires, the smell of burning leaves.....possibilities. Now it means the temperatures will make a gradual descent to bearable figures and it won't be a penance, but once again a pleasure, to go for long walks.

Last week we saw our grandsons' first football games of the season. They are back in school already and were pretty excited about their first games and happy that we were there to watch. We sat in the bleachers in brilliant, late summer Ohio sunshine. Everyone seemed to know what was going on and I cheered manfully whenever it seemed appropriate to do so, though I had no clue what was happening on the field. I'm still puzzled, after all these years, as to why American football is even called football, but I was mesmerized nevertheless by those handsome little boys (#33 and #1) in their football helmets and crazy bulky padded jerseys and their little thin legs sticking out under it all.

Wait a minute, wasn't it just weeks ago that they were babies?

As you can see, I have no hope of a future in sports' photography. Not quick enough to catch the action shots. Blame that sedate pace mentioned above, besides being "blind in one eye and can't see out of the other". As far as I know, in spite of how it looks, nobody was injured here. There was a lot of tackling and subsequent rolling on the ground, which, if it had been me, would have required an ambulance and a visit to the hospital, but for these elastic little whippersnappers it was just a matter of jumping up, then doing it all again. I'm still no wiser about the whole purpose of the game.

Speaking of failing eyesight, I got in the shower the other day, leaving my glasses on the bathroom counter. I'd been out in the shade garden, clearing, so had twigs and the like caught in my hair. Twigs don't bother me, but when something fell from my hair and moved I was not happy. It looked like a rather large bug.

 I don't do bugs.

I didn't say "eek!" I'm a bit more dignified than that, but I did swat enthusiastically at the creature with a washcloth in an effort to subdue him and stop him from possibly moving onto my toes. I cornered him out of the flow of water and he sat still while I peered at him myopically, trying to determine if it would be safe to pick him up and eject him from the shower.....

That's when I realized "he" was a leaf.

Another time, quite recently, I washed my face, wearing, of necessity, no glasses. I patted my cheeks dry and reached for my tube of face cream. Removing the cap, I was about to squeeze some onto my fingers and apply it to my face when, just in time, I realized that what I had in my hand was the toothpaste tube.

Yes, getting older separates the sissies from the stalwarts. It seems to me that a sedate pace is the best plan.

An even better plan would be to sedate Time.