A Few of My Favorite Things

Sixteen months ago, I wrote my first blog post.  Since then, I’ve met fascinating people, made many friends, and discovered a new form of storytelling.  I’m like the Tortoise, not the Hare–slow and steady. Finally, I get to post for the hundredth time!

Through this blog I share my passion for travel, photography, writing, storytelling, and that which I hold dearest, my family. But if not for you, this blog would not exist.  There is an Armenian folk saying…

Three apples fell from heaven.

One for the teller,

One for the listener,

And one for the one who took it to heart.

Thank you for being here, for reading, for caring enough to follow this blog, and for sharing your thoughts, your stories, your lives with me through your blogs.  To mark this milestone, here are a few of my favorite posts from the past sixteen months.

Sunday Post:  Doors

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward Movement

Oceans (and the Irish Coastline)

Sunrise in Gibraltar

Flowers (are like people)

One Village

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

To Shorten the Road

Reflections (On Life and the Art of Aging)

Where Are We?  Where’s Walter?  And Where is That Fleeting Moment?

Editing Monet’s Garden

All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Colorado: The Inside Story

Last month, with wildfires raging throughout Colorado, we thought long and hard before deciding to follow through on a booking made last spring and take our kids to Vail.  They’re twenty-two and eighteen, and it’s getting harder to find a time when everyone can get away–we didn’t want to miss this chance.  We were a hundred miles from the nearest fire, and while it was the hot topic of conversation, on everyone’s mind and in their thoughts and prayers, we never felt we were in danger.

Colorado was beautiful.
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We hiked…

And played…

Toured beautiful gardens…

…and sculpture parks…

Saw wildlife…

…and admired the local color.

They say travel is broadening, and now I know why…

Best of all, Colorado is rich in history.  The kids are collaborating on a web comic set in the Old West.  Research has been crucial to my own writing, and this was a perfect opportunity to let the kids do research for their project.   They were excellent pupils!

We went to the Barney L. Ford House Museum in Breckenridge and The Historic Park and Museum in Frisco.

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In Denver we saw the Black American West Museum and the Byers-Evans Mansion.  In Leadville, after touring the National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame …

….and The Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin, we ate at The Golden Burro (AKA the Brass Ass), an establishment with its own colorful story.   Each one opened up a window in time…

…which we could look through for a peek into the lives of those people, the challenges they faced, their success and their failures.  There were big stories about fortunes won and lost and won again, and little stories from their daily lives.  Their joys and their sorrows were not so different from our own.

They say in Colorado, “Everything begins with mining.  Everything!”

So we visited The Country Boy Mine, which closed down mining operations after World War Two, and opened up again as a tourist attraction in 1991.

It was a trip that would take us a thousand feet into a cold dark mountain, and a hundred years into the past.  We suited up…

…and prepared to mine The Country Boy for the inside story.  We learned that after big mining companies came in and took over in the 1880s, few miners struck it rich; most worked for minimum wages and were subjected to the indignity of body cavity searches each time they left the mine.  Conditions were brutal and life expectancies short.  They went deaf from the hammering, and worked in muck up to their knees, by only the dimmest light, as they were forced to pay for their own candles.  Many died of lung disease, if they weren’t killed in an accident first.  Canaries were hard to come by and too fragile to live at such high altitudes, so the men lured rats into the mines by sharing their midday meals with them.  The rats could sense the ground tremors and anticipate a cave-in.  If miners heard the squeak of fleeing rats, or felt them brushing past their ankles, they too would run for their lives.

Here’s what we learned in Colorado.  The people there have a history of boom and bust, hardship and hard work.  Whether it’s faith, pluck, or sheer inner strength of will, if you knock them down, they will pick themselves up and find a way to keep going.  My heart is aching for them right now.  The entire nation is grieving with and for them, holding them in their thoughts and prayers…

…sending them wishes for peace and healing.


All material copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Where Are We? Where’s Walter? And Where is That Fleeting Moment?

My daughter Bea’s spring break didn’t coincide with her Dad’s, so we took our first overseas trip together, just the two of us.

She was a sophomore in high school, but I knew she  would be college bound before I could blink twice, and her spring breaks and summers would likely be spent on internships, summer jobs, or traveling with friends.  Each moment felt precious and fleeting, except perhaps our first night in England, when my darling girl got very sick.  There was nothing fleeting about that night–it lasted an eternity!  But Bea rallied, and we made the most of every moment.

Each day I studied the map and planned our route, which ‘A’ road led to which ‘B’ road which led to tiny country lanes with no names.

“Why bother, Mom?  We always get lost anyway,” said Bea.

Good point.   If we asked a local for directions, the answer went something like this: “Right! Take the left fork, then the second right, go past three fields and take a left where the old oak used to be…”  Once I even had to knock on a stranger’s door to beg directions.

But a dandelion is only a weed if you don’t want it, and getting lost was an interesting diversion, so long as we were in no hurry, and we never were.  Our oft-repeated motto was, “We always get where we’re going…………………………………………….eventually!

I wanted to share some of my favorite places with Bea and do a bit of research for a historical novel, but mostly I hoped to discover exciting places new to us both.  On previous trips, I’d never made it to Canterbury, though the town had played an important role throughout English history.   So we moseyed to Canterbury, and stayed at Blackfriars, an inn that was once a 13th century friary.

At Canterbury Cathedral we had our tour guide all to ourselves.  I’d have sworn he’d stepped right out of a BBC special, with his gray hair, proper English accent, and Mr. Rogers sweater and tie.  He also carried a cane, and I suspect that he’d suffered a mild stroke.  Yet here he was, kindly sharing his expertise and his precious time with us.  We asked questions about the cathedral and even ventured into politics, current events, and other matters I’d always wondered about, such as, “What do contemporary English people think about Henry VIII?”  When our tour ran over–too many questions–our guide called the front desk for permission to spend another hour with us.  We felt so honored and grateful.  After saying goodbye to him, we went to the gift shop for our pilgrim badges.

We heard great stories from John the Boatman on the canal tour in Canterbury.  When we came to a particularly low bridge, he  warned us to duck.  As we passed under, he pointed out the groove worn into the center stone by the heads of boatmen not quite fleet enough, at least when it came to ducking.  How many times, I wondered, would you have to smack the back of your head before you caught on?  And how many boatmen had it taken over the centuries to wear a grove in the stone?

Some of our discoveries were due to fools’ luck.  On an evening stroll we stumbled upon this little coffee shop where in 1620, according to its proprietors, America began.  (It was the place where the Mayflower was hired to carry pilgrims to America. Using that logic, the soda fountain where Mr. Disney popped the question to the future Mrs. Disney is the place where Disneyland began.)  Nevertheless we took a photo for future reference, since we have a personal history and interest in the Mayflower.

We visited castles, museums and took high tea, but a trip to the grocery store was as much fun as Disneyland.


We love to try new things, especially when the second ingredient listed is sugar.

…and I think there should be a monument erected in honor of Mr. Kipling, for his contribution to the world–Mr. Kipling’s Exceedingly Good Cherry Bakewell Tarts.

But Bea and I don’t need a tourist attraction to amuse ourselves–we talk history, life, story and more story.  Wherever we go, Bea and I  inevitably produce an outline for a novel based on this era or that event, and England was a fertile and storied land long before we arrived.   We took turns brainstorming and talking each other through rough spots in our writing projects.  I’d just finished a draft of a women’s contemporary, Real Troopers.  One of my characters is Walter Clark, a retired F.B.I. agent, poet, and amateur astronomist.  He is older, with white hair, a good looking sixty-something.  But was he too good to be true?  Could someone like Walter exist in real life?  Bea and I invented a game, ‘Where’s Walter?’  On country lanes and city streets, we kept a discreet eye peeled for him.

“How about him, Mom?” asked Bea, casually nodding her head in the direction of a man walking toward us in the crowd.

“Too young,” I said.

“How about him?” asked Bea.

“Too old,” I said.  “Oooh, don’t look, Bea!  Turn slowly and check out that gent by the phone booth.  Could that be Walter?”

Bea pretended to stretch, discreetly twisting her head for a look, then gave her report.  “Walter would never have frown lines.”

She was right, of course.  We left Canterbury and The Walter That Wasn’t to depart for our next destination.  Not knowing if I’d have another chance, I had splurged for a night in a very spiffy 15th century B&B, The Olde Moat House, in Ivy Church.  There was a tiny hamlet with only a church and a pub, where two men were having a pint at an outside table.  We were coming from a different direction than we’d planned, but figured we would find our way there…………………………………….eventually.   After a mile or so, we realized we’d overshot the town and turned back.  As we passed the pub for the second time, one of the men jumped up and flagged us down.   I stopped and rolled down the window,  and he said, pointing,“The Olde Moat House.  It’s in that direction.  Look for a gate with two white posts.”

 “How did you know?” I asked.

“A mother and a daughter.” (He did NOT say “looking confused,” but he didn’t need to.)

For one night, Bea was a princess.


The next day we had tea at The Mermaid Inn in Rye.

The inn was there at the time of the Conquest.  It was so old they had to remodel in anticipation of a visit by the first Queen Elizabeth.

Our bartender was Paddy Mortimer, whose ancestor had come over with William the Conqueror.  (We forgave him.)  When he heard Bea had been ill, he mixed her the special orange juice concoction his mum always made him when he was sick, and served it to her on the house.  He had us wait five minutes for his shift to end, so he could escort us to our car park.  Thank you, Paddy, dear lad.

True ghost stories from Dover Castle must wait, as will the story of our visit to Battle Abbey, where we walked the battlefield on which the last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, was defeated by William the Bastard, thereafter known as William the Conqueror.

I also wanted to take Bea to Battle, because it is the starting point of my historical novel, The Keeper of the Crystal Spring, which I co-authored with my sister Deborah.  It was a really special moment to share with my daughter.

So we had our eating moments,

and our bleating moments…
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…and even our cheating moments.

That happened on the Underground.  We were returning from London to our  hotel when I saw him.  Among the bustling crowd on the subway I saw Walter!  “Look, Bea,” I whispered.  “It’s him!”  Bea confirmed.  Yes!  We had a positive identification, but we needed documentation.  I whipped out my camera and said, “Smile!”  Bea did, and I shot right past her head to snap a creeper photo of Walter, concrete proof that he did, indeed, exist!  But the shot was out of focus, soI tried again…

By that time I was laughing so loud that I embarrassed Bea, and drew unwanted attention.   Thank goodness, the train stopped, and we all went our separate ways.  But now I know, somewhere in the streets of London, Walter exists!

I will tell you one more story, about the 650 year old Clergy House in Alfriston.

In the 1880s it was in a state of decay, and church authorities wanted to tear it down.  Living there was a ninety year old woman who had been renting the house from the church for many years.  She cried and begged them not to destroy her home and put her out onto the streets.  They took pity, and granted her permission to live out the rest of her life in the old clergy house, and then they would raze it.  She surprised them all by living another three years, just long enough for the right folks to found The National Trust.  They got organized just in time to purchase The Clergy House, raise the funds to restore it, and maintain it as a priceless national treasure, the very first property of many such historic treasures acquired by The National Trust.  When we toured the house, there was a smooth-edged little hole in the lintel over the front door, worn into the wood by six centuries of coming and going of the furry little bats living among the rafters.  Who would have thought such fleeting appearances by such tiny creatures would make such a lasting mark?

Fleeting moments occur, and often reoccur.  I think of the Canterbury boatmen who wore down a stone bridge with the backs of their heads.  But then there are the bats who have done much the same thing at The Clergy House, only they created a pathway to home, a far worthier pursuit than banging your head against a wall.  I’m more like a bat than a boatman.  Every expression of love, every shared smile, every conversation we have is a precious fleeting moment in time.  Just like it did for the bats, that moment builds upon itself, and the effect is cumulative.   I think of the empty nest I will be living in next year, but I will try not to feel too sad.  Bea and I have shared a lifetime of fleeting precious moments that have worn a pathway from heart to heart, and that will never go away.

Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

Summertime is family time–school’s out for the kids, and Dad too.

We get to travel to new places.  Big cities….

Or little villages….

To learn the stories…

And the histories…

To take in the colors….

And the tastes….

See the sights…

Visit family…

And just be together….

Summertime sparkles!

Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Pandora’s Box

“You already have a pet,” I told eight-year-old Bea. “You have nineteen of them.”

“Fish don’t count, Mom. I need something with fur.”

“Cats and dogs make me wheeze and Daddy itch.”

“How about a rabbit?” asked her brother Eli.

“Too big to flush.”

I knew something of rodents in captivity.  My sister’s kids had a hamster named Little May.  She’d lived hard and fast, and died young.   A life of costume parties, wild shirt-pocket rides, playing the “show and tell” circuit, and a brief-but-thrilling flight career had proved too much for Little May.  She died at the tender age of six months.  I suspect it was suicide.

“How about a guinea pig?”

“They stink, you have to clean their cages, and for what?  Unresponsive vermin.”

“A hamster?”

“Well…”  Investing that degree of commitment into a pet project was something I might consider.  “If you can accept that a hamster lifespan is less than that of a guppy’s.”

Thus I found myself ankle deep in the world of hamster husbandry.  Why they call it that, I’ll never know; my husband had nothing to do with it.  ‘It’ was a black and white Teddy Bear Hamster.  The cost of the cage, igloo, water bottle, vitamins, cedar bedding and, yes, the hamster potty, for our six-dollar rodent far exceeded the dollar-a-month investment I anticipated.

We still needed a name, but at least that was free.  I voted for Wildfire or Hamlet, but the kids settled on Pandora.  Her purple cage became the infamous “Pandora’s Box,” and we opened it again and again.  Like that divine creation, our Pandora inspired story, song, poetry, even a new family crest, a black and white hamster sporting a golden crown.  Clearly, Pandora was destined to rule.

Rodent Fun Fact #1.   Feral gerbils feed on bed sheets and store the leftovers under the refrigerator.  This I learned in third grade when Napoleon, the classroom gerbil, stayed at our house for spring break.  In sixth grade, Linda Witkowsky put Winky, her hamster, into my hands.  It struggled furiously, went winky on my blouse, its eyes bulged, and so did mine.  I hadn’t touched a rodent since.

Rodent Fun Fact #2.   Hamster is from the German word for  “hamper,” as in laundry hamper, container, storage bin.  I reckon a hamster can hold about ten times its weight in cheek pouches stretching the length of its body.  No wonder they don’t carry purses!  This talent was graphically illustrated the first day, when the kids loaded Pandora with peanuts, seeds, carrots, Cheerios, and turned her loose in the bathroom.  She left an impressive hoard behind the toilet.  We left it there for three days, as a sort of monument.

Pandora was a good-natured little creature, tolerant of handling and mishandling.  She gripped a cracker like a kid with a peanut butter sandwich.  She used the same technique nibbling buttons off a shirt.  She was cute like other peoples’ grandchildren are cute–in a wallet.  I was convinced I could ride this out with no Close Encounters of the Third Kind, until the first time the kids changed her cage.  Holding out the Beast, Bea cooed, “Go to Grandma.”

I was soon babysitting on a regular basis.  Not content to sit in your lap and purr, Pandora was a perpetual motion machine.  In her exercise ball she rumbled like thunder as she raced down our long hall.  The kids made her Lego mazes and seltzer bottle airplanes  She could be a hula girl, Greek Goddess, fairy tale princess, or bikini-clad bathing beauty, depending upon which hole in the Kleenex box she peeked out.

They warn you against looking into a snake’s eyes, but no one ever said a thing about hamsters.

I’d drop laundry in Eli’s room and see Panny staring at me.  I knew what she wanted.  I half expected her to run a little tin cup along the bars of her cage.  The first time I caved, it wasn’t good breeding that brought Panny scurrying to the door to greet me.  I didn’t kid myself; mine were often the hands that fed her.  Dogs love their humans, but what drives a hamster?  Are they too stupid to know fear?  Are we too big to be regarded as anything but a landscape?   Still, it was oddly moving when she stepped into my hands, and I could feel her tiny heart beating against my palm.

One night the cage wasn’t latched.  Pandora climbed from the dresser top to the floor for a walk on the Wild Side.  Tears were shed.  Then we placed a peanut in each room, shut the door, and blocked the crack with towels.  If a peanut went missing, we’d know where to look.  In central rooms we placed treats in deep buckets with ramps leading up to them.

“I bet she forgot to pack her cheeks,” I told the kids.  “Sooner or later she’ll come out to forage; it’s the Hamster Way.”  I didn’t mention Cousin Jean’s gerbil that set out to seek its fortune.  Months later she found it trapped in a dresser in the basement, keeping the company of maggots.

While emptying the hall closet, I heard a loud grinding coming from the basement.

“Eli,” I hollered down the stairs, “try searching more quietly, so you can hear her.”

“What, Mom?” asked Eli, appearing beside me.

It had to be Panny down there, in the bowels of the basement.  We went downstairs and waited, listening.  The furnace clicked on, and we jumped.  Tick, tick, tick went the clock.  Finally we heard that noise again, like a chainsaw, coming from inside the staircase. That could mean only one thing…

Pandora had entered the Black Hole, where no hamster had gone before.  Our storage room sucks in all manner of objects and morphs them into high density matter.  Not just cardboard boxes and camping equipment.  Baby things for my unborn grandchildren, stacks of Rubbermaid containing every object d’art my kids ever made, a slide projector, medieval tankards, sci-fi dinnerware, my dead uncle’s stamp collection, the hardened dregs of house paint to match the color before the last.  Blacker than a Black Hole.

We peeled away the layers, from folding chairs that come out for parties to stained glass scraps from a class taken twenty years before.  Then I saw her, snug in a nest of sawdust gnawed from the underbelly of the stairs.  Just out of reach.  If I made a grab, I might scare her deeper into hiding.  My heart was pounding as I held out my hand.  “Here, Panny…”

Hamsters are loners, pairing up only to mate, and even that isn’t pretty.  They are so territorial that the most tender hamster mothers drive away their offspring the instant they mature.  What could we offer to match a brand new house in the sub-suburbs?  Why should she respond to the whispered promise of a yogurt treat when there was enough macaroni art down there to last a hamster lifetime?

“Come on, Panny.  Come to Grandma…”

Panny looked at me with her big brown eyes.  And crept out of her nest into my hand.

One evening soon after, Bea demonstrated Panny’s newest trick.  “Up, Panny, up!” Pandora climbed the bars to the ceiling of her cage.  I beamed at my grandbaby’s cleverness, and ran for the camera.  But the next morning she was trembling, listless, and had clearly been sick.  I cleaned her while the kids cleaned the cage.

“Maybe she just needs rest,” I said, but to my husband Thom I whispered, “It’s bad.”

Her condition worsened.  The next morning, the kids were distressed to see her lying listless.  My sometimes-too-practical husband picked up Panny and gently stroked her.  She looked so tiny in his big hands.  “We have an emotional investment to protect,” he said.  “It might be worth a trip to the vet.”

At that moment I knew I would love that man forever.  In for a Panny, in for a pound.  The vet gave our six dollar hamster a hundred dollars worth of antibiotics.

“Do other people bring in sick hamsters?” I asked, feeling a little foolish.

“Oh, yes,” the vet assured me.

“And do they get better?”

She hesitated.  “Sometimes.”  Then she shrugged.  “Hamsters get infections, just like people, but they’re fragile.  In the wild, most get eaten before they get sick.  Pandora should be at home, where she’ll be more comfortable, and the children can be involved.”   So it had come to hamster hospice.

We gave her a few CCs of water, and tucked her into her nest.  The next morning, Eli found Pandora’s lifeless body.  There was no comforting Bea.  She looked at the rain pouring down outside and sobbed, “Even Mother Nature is crying.”

She was in no condition to go to school.  Between bouts of tears Bea stitched a tiny quilt and pillow, fashioned a tiny golden crown, and a little gold coffin adorned with plastic jewels.  Bea tucked in Panny with a tuft of nesting material and a peanut.  On the inside lid she wrote a lullaby, “So it will be like I’m singing to her forever.”

It was an open casket funeral.  Eli constructed a Popsicle stick headstone, and Bea planned the service.  I made copies of Bea’s hymn, “Hamsters We Have Heard on High,” so the mourners could join in.  Eli played flute and Bea sang, “Sleep, Baby, Sleep.”

Bea’s tearful elegy was simple, but eloquent.  “Her Grandma said she never knew she could love a rodent, and her Grandpa never said he loved her, but he did.  She’s an angel now.  A furry little angel.”

I was surprised to see Thom wipe away a tear.

“Does Daddy love her?” Bea had asked, when Panny first fell ill.

“Yes, in his way,” I told her.  Did the kids love her?  Absolutely.  Did Panny love us?  I’m sure she did, in her Hamster Way.  She taught us much about love, and the sorrow that is the price we gladly pay for it.  And even the passing of a hamster is a reminder to appreciate every moment of this precious fleeting gift of life.  Bea will tell you Pandora Athena Baltuck Garrard lived a very full life and packed a lot of love into her 18 short months.  And I will tell you that my first grandchild will always be the one with fur on her face.

copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

In Your Hands

Bea and I were having a little fun with shadows on the grounds of Dover Castle.  It made me think about writing–and life.  Life puts the raw material into our hands, and it is up to us to mold it into whatever work of art we envision.  Look for the right light and context, and you can do so much with so little, and to great effect.

Weekly Photo Challenge–Unfocused (and focused were crossing a bridge…)

My daughter Bea thought her choice was made–a very good New England liberal arts college for women.  Cozy and friendly, safe and secure.  Then Stanford, a huge University with 16,000 students and a daunting reputation, offered her a place and very generous financial aid packet.

One day her path seemed settled, the next day she was on an airplane bound for San Francisco.  This blurry image, taken on the airplane, is the face of a high school senior trying to concentrate on socialistic realism for her history assignment.  But she is having difficulty focusing on her homework.  Was she afraid that she wouldn’t like Stanford?  Or that she would?

She tried to keep an open mind as she looked around.

It was pretty to look at.

Much to reflect on…

Athena, goddess of wisdom, which shall it be?  Door Number One, Door Number Two, or Door Number Three?

Bea had a good look.

And a good think.

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And went home.

P.S.

She chose Stanford.

This Versatile Blogger Welcomes You to the Planet Baltuck

Hey!  It’s official!  I’m a Versatile Blogger!  First, thanks to these  folks for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.   

Mike Reverb is a writer with a great sense of humor, plenty of encouragement and useful tips for his colleagues.

Samir, a citizen of the world, is a creative writer who asks thoughtful questions about the art and craft of writing.

Maggie Myklebust, an American living in Norway,  just published her memoir, Fly Away Home, and her blog is great.

And Now….Welcome to the Planet Baltuck.

Eli–a typical inhabitant.

 Part of accepting the Versatile Blogger Award is that I share my world with you–or at least seven surprising and/or little known facts about myself.  So here they are…

1.  There really is a Planet Baltuck up there in the night sky.  It’s named after my big sister Miriam, the white sheep of the family, for her contributions to science.   Learn more about it in my post, After All.

Bea says, “Don’t go away.  There’s much more.  For instance…”

2.    I am a twin.  My brother Lewis is older by three minutes, but I’m bossier.  He must have been hogging all the room in there, because he weighed much more than I did at birth, but I made up for it by stealing his baby bottle.  We are best buddies now; I need to stay on his good side because he’s a great cook, and desserts are his specialty.

3.   I gave birth to my own critique group.  I’m so dang proud of my kids Eli and Bea.   We share a passion for history, art, travel, storytelling.  Best of all, they are great writers, and I can count on them for an honest insightful critique.  To learn more, check out Bea’s blog for writers, Adventures for the Faint of Heart.

 

4.  I was a guest on Romper Room.  I was on the program as part of a West Coast storytelling tour sponsored by General Mills.  It was October, so I told a spooky story, and BOO!  I made Miss Nancy jump!  Does that make me a Don’t’ Bee?

5.  I saw the filming of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  We were on the Yale campus tour four years ago looking at colleges for my son.  It was all very hush-hush, and we didn’t know until we got there what was going on.  Traffic was diverted, curbs were lined with trailers, dressing rooms, antique cars, and camera equipment.  We saw two scenes filmed, including a car scene with old boats from the late forties.  But we couldn’t get close enough to identify the actors.  To learn about my real life encounter with Indiana Jones a.k.a. Harrison Ford, click here.

6.  We came over on the Mayflower.  On my mother’s side, I am descended from four of the original passengers on the Mayflower.  Elizabeth Tilley came over with her parents, John and Joan Tilley, and married John Howland.  He was the only passenger to survive a fall overboard on the journey across the icy Atlantic.  If he hadn’t grabbed a rope trailing behind the ship, I wouldn’t be here today.   Neither would most of America, because almost everyone and his cousin is descended from someone who came over on the Mayflower, whether they know it or not.  To see the ornament we hang on the tree each year to commemorate this event, check out my post, The Christmas Gang.

7.  My favorite candy is Good ‘n’ Plenties.  A sweet burst and a long chew!  When I sent my son Good ‘n’ Plenties in a CARE package, his college roommates teased him for eating ‘old people’s candy.’  But my husband Thom says he read that Good ‘n’ Plenties are a mild aphrodisiac—and then he gave me a box.   I really don’t know about that, but they were very good—both of them.

Now for the best part!    I get to tell you all about these talented and fascinating bloggers as I pass this award on to them.

Island Traveler  is one man’s inspiring journey through life.

Stuff I tell my sister— Good insight into life–and she tells you while telling her best friend, her sister.

I May fly– Lovely photos, humorous and witty.

Susan Wingate—  Award-winning novelist who knows how to herd cats, well, sorta kinda.  But can she write!

Sabrina Garie— A lovely writer who happens to be well-versed in sci-fi.

Saraflower’s Blog— The author of By the Sword, with plenty of  insight and support for writers.

Walking Papers BlogInteresting, insightful, and always intriguing.

Daily Sweet PeasSweet indeed!  Lovely photographs and poetry.

Let’s Cut the Crap--An irreverant view of life after sixty-five.

Sarahpotterwrites— Sarah is a talented musician, artist, and poet.

The ObamaCratMr. J.B. is indeed versatile–he shares recipes, music, poetry, but most of all heartfelt convictions.

Four Blue Hills— A very professional presentation of everything from fun facts to world events.

It’s a Whole New WorldThis is one mom’s everyday life, and what she does to keep smiling.

The Wanderlust Gene— An intelligent and well traveled sixtysomething’s photographs, stories, and insight about life and its adventures.

A Map of Time, a Trip Into the Past-– Fascinating, well told, and often obscure fun facts from history.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

In a museum in Vienna we saw statues of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, usually standing alone and looking very grand.  Occasionally one was portrayed with his spouse, each sitting upon a throne, like salt and pepper shakers; a matched set, but separate.  Then we came to a sculpture of an Egyptian couple sharing the same seat, a simple stone block.  I don’t remember who it was, some Ramses or other, but it didn’t matter.  He leaned into her ever so slightly, and her arm rested gently on his back in such a fond and tender gesture that it warmed the stone.  Not just mummies waiting to happen, they were flesh and blood humans who must have loved as tenderly as we do.  Togetherness for all times, and all time.

In Vienna we visited The House of Music, where we saw this Mozart Family portrait.  Seated at the piano were young Wolfgang, his sister Maria Anna, and their father Leopold.  Anna Maria, Leopold’s wife and the mother of his children had died, but they couldn’t think of having a family portrait painted without including her.  They commissioned a portrait of the deceased Anna Maria within the painting, which strikes me as sad, but sweet.  Togetherness in any case.

Oh, my gosh!  I look at this picture of my husband and kids at an open-air history museum in Switzerland, and while I laugh aloud just to look at it, my heart is melting.  My sister Con says the one who wields the camera wields the power; if you are aiming a camera at folks and ask them to jump off a cliff, she says they’ll do it for the sake of the shot.  This photo might be taken as proof of Con’s theory, but I took it as proof of their love for the family photographer and to a certain sense of loyalty and fun.   Togetherness at any price!

But if I had to choose one photo to depict what “together” means to me, it would be this one snapped in the streets of Orvieto, Italy.  It brings to mind the marriage vows Thom and I made to each other twenty-nine years ago.  “Grow old with me, the best is yet to come…”

All words and imaged copyright Naomi Baltuck

Two Subjects

You might look at this photograph and think, “Yes, two subjects, the darkened foreground and the colorful Argentine background.” Or perhaps you might decide that the two subjects are actually the two hikers.  I look at this photograph and see all that, and more.

In this one picture, I see many shared adventures, but also the life journey we have made as a family.  I see my husband and my daughter standing on a verge, both soon to be subject to great life changes.  His little chick is flying off into the bright colorful world stretched out before her. He is waiting for the lady with the camera to catch up, and together we will fly home, but not to our empty nest.  We also have wings with which to fly, and that wide world is also ours to explore in a new way, through new eyes.

People perceive every snapshot through their own eyes.  One single image can hold numerous meanings to the same person.  So many stories, based on the viewer’s experience, past and present, and loaded with hopes, wishes, and dreams for the future.  Some of these visions occupy the forefront of our consciousness, others live quietly in the back of our minds.

There are always only two subjects that matter when we look at a picture–the eye and the beholder.