Friday, April 30, 2010

The Scent of Summer Past

Once upon a time I lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota in a little trailer in the alley behind Professor Straum’s Old Time Portrait Studio, where I worked while on delayed entry into the Air Force. It was a lonely/happy time. That is a strange combo platter, to be sure, but it really best describes the way it was for me.
Truly on my own for the first time, I learned how to find pleasure in the simple things .... find new friends, find new contentedness in myself and the air around me.
I loved that time in my life.
The Black Hills are an absolutely gorgeous place to find one’s self. Even on a tight “photographer’s” budget! During the week I dined on instant rice and enjoyed a little splash in the sink we used in the darkroom in lieu of a real bath.
For fun we held up the stagecoach a couple of times a day with the prop weapons we shared with the studio across the street (the “competition” was owned by the same person!) We took strolls on the boardwalk and hiked into the woods. We swam in a hot spring the local boys found and we dined on the kindness of travelers from time to time.
We dangled our feet in the stream while panning for gold and marveled at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We told stories and shared laughter with strangers.
We wandered through caves and danced in the streets at night while drinking the cheapest beer we could buy and listening to mixed tapes of Missing Persons, INXS, U2, etc.
Once a week, I would splurge and pay 25 cents for a real shower at the campground and enjoy a bag of popcorn out of the machine.
I would climb to the highest peak and let the sun warm my face and the breeze rustle my hair. And I would dream the day away .....
The air is different there.
It was a sweet, simple time and I will never forget that summer ......

Every day I ride the Yellow Line to work. And every day I forget those memories of a warm South Dakota summer 26 years ago.
But each time I get off the train at Huntington Station, for a split second, I smell the forest of yesteryear. The Black Hills. Every day I forget and every day I am reminded again as if for the first time.
Each and every day I am treated with a pleasant memory hidden away in the back of my mind caught forever in the sweet scent of the air at a train station in Alexandria Virginia.
Life is funny like that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

In spite of the delicate subject matter, I am so happy I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I considered putting it down when I realized what the book was about, but thankfully, I did not.
I have a sister-in-law, also named Lisa, who’s mother was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease at a young age. I remember Lisa, a strong, funny woman and natural caregiver, telling me stories of the progression of her mother’s disease and the struggles she and her family endured.
In turns tragic, frustrating, poignant and comical, life with Alzheimer’s is a difficult one for everyone involved. I remember seeing Lisa’s mother changing before our very eyes and how I felt whenever I was around her.
I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. And that embarrasses me to this day.
Still Alice is a moving story of a fifty year old woman in the prime of her life and career being diagnosed and living with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. Written in first person, this novel delves into the progression of a fatal disease and what it means for the life of a YOUNG woman with a brilliant career, happy marriage and growing family.
But, it is so beautifully written ... elegantly blending medical facts with extremely raw human emotion. Amazingly, I found it extremely uplifting! Sometimes we have to understand (and having lost loved ones to fatal illnesses over the last decade, it’s something I have firsthand experience with) that, although a life is altered and, sadly, shortened, it is still a life worth living and respecting.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Once again, I chose a very sad book.
A story of labels and tragedy, confusion and pain.
A story of how words can wound and how sometimes life just gets in the way of living. Thank God for the cherry blossoms
and birds chirping
and for lunch breaks under the springtime sun
~ if not for these simple pleasures,
I would have been left depressed and darkened.