You Can’t Change That

Like a brilliant sunset, it’s here and then gone.

As fleet as a bird on the wing…

Passing as unnoticed as the morning dew…

…even as it goes speeding down the track of no return.

From here.

To here.

Like a river, it flows, with its twists and turns, its highs and lows.

But mostly highs.

But it’s just as they say.

 Time…

…and tides wait for no one.

Childhood, theirs–not ours–slips away like water through our fingers.

 

Or a kite caught up in a strong wind.

As warm and wonderful as a hug, but just as fleeting.

Suddenly they’re all grown up; intelligent, creative, compassionate human beings, ready to make their contributions to the world.  Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

Their childhood is a gift…

…we gave to each other.

It has its season, and then it’s gone…

Off they go to seek their fortunes.

Dang!  And just when they learned how to cook!

But here’s something they won’t know until they have children of their own.  Long after our kids are parents, long after they’ve gone gray, long after they are elderly orphans…they will still be our babies.

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Neither time nor tides can ever change that.

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgia.

Flying High

Last week my son Eli and I got into the car and drove down to Sea-Tac airport.

It was a beautiful day.  We saw honest-to-goodness sunshine for the first time in a long time.  I was glad I remembered to bring my camera.  Turning onto Main Street, we saw the Olympics in all their glory.

Eli and I have a very simple system for sharing the camera. If I’m driving, it’s “Eli, quick, take a picture of that.  Without the power lines, if you can!”  Sometimes he gets excited, and says, “Ooh, Mom, can I have the camera?”   South of downtown Seattle, we rounded a bend, and gasped at the magnificence of Mt. Rainier, looming over the city like a great white ghost.  “Quick, Eli, take a picture!”

He got a good one.  Only this time, I asked him to take another, with the carpool sign in it.  At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I realize now it’s because I wanted to remember being together in our little family carpool, sharing that moment in our beautiful home town.
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Everything seemed so natural, and ordinary. Except this time, we parked at the airport, checked his bag, and grabbed a cuppa joe and a goodbye kiss, before he boarded an airplane to Argentina as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

While inching his way through the maze toward the security gate, we waved and smiled at each other each time he passed by.  He reminded me of a kid waiting in line to go on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.  Only this was the real thing.  My son put on his shoes, grabbed his backpack and ukelele, and gave me one final salute before hurrying off to his gate. Then I went to the parking garage, got into my car, and blubbered.

I’m so proud of my son.  He’s courageous and adventurous.  He’s doing what all our baby birdies are supposed to do.  We hatch them, and nurture them….

They test their wings…

 

…and then they fly.  That’s their job.

My  job is to miss them, and worry, and love them wherever they are, and to get on with my life.  I had shows to rehearse for, a manuscript to finish, out-of-town company coming to visit.

It seemed impossible that I should be arriving back home while Eli’s plane still sat on the tarmac waiting for take-off.  I swung by the water, and saw that the sun was still shining.  Cars and people were still coming and going.

Ferry boats too.

On the way up the hill to our house I passed another familiar sight.  I’d always appreciated the simple beauty of this little wooden structure, vaguely wondering who had built it on such thickly forested unoccupied land–and why.  That day I perceived it as a work of art, an invitation, a gateway to adventure, to the unknown, to the future.  And  I stopped to take a picture for Eli.

Click here to read Elaiya Blogea, Elijah’s very funny, very interesting blog about a year in Salta.

All images and words c2013 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Transport.

When We Come to It

So many  bridges.

Bridges of concrete…

…iron…

…and steel.

Ancient ones of stone…

…brick…

…mortar….

…and wood.

 

Some are famous…

…celebrated in story…

…and song.

Some draw pilgrims from all over the world.

So different…


…yet they serve the same purpose.

To span distance…

…to connect…

 

…to deliver us from troubled waters.

There’s an old saying…it is better to build bridges than walls.

Click here for more interpretations of Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week: Bridges.

Click here for more interpretations of Jake’s Sunday Post: Bridges.

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Bridges.

Click here for more interpretations of Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme: Bridges.

All images and words c2013 Naomi Baltuck

True Confessions of a Tacky Tourist, and the Be-Very-Lated Sunshine Award

I’m a bad dog!  Aside from 2012 Blog of the Year Awards, I haven’t posted an  award since last May!   Those bloggers who honored me with these nominations have probably forgotten all about it, or long since given up.  But I’ve kept track, because I knew I’d get around to it……………………………………..eventually.

Here are the four simple rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award.

1. Display the logo on your blog.  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.  3. State 5 facts about yourself.  4. Pass the award on to 8 (or 10) other bloggers, and link to one of their specific posts so they get notified by ping back.

As long as I’m spilling the beans, all five facts will be the true confessions of a tacky tourist.  I hope you will still respect me in the morning.

5.  Yes, we are the tacky tourists your cool friends warned you about.

4. We didn’t get a magic carpet video in Cappadocia because we were running late, and our travel companions would’ve shunned us. But we wanted to.


3. We have discovered many practical and economical uses for a quality  zoom lens.

2. I must also confess that, in our travels, as hard as we tried, we were rarely able to embarrass our teenagers…

1. …Or get ourselves arrested.

Here are links back to the bloggers who nominated me for The Sunshine Award.  Be sure to check out their blogs–you will not be disappointed!

Sarah Potter of sarahpotterwrites is pursued by the muses of prose, poetry, and music.  She is a very fine poet, a heavenly singer, and a novelist.

Micheline of Micheline’s Blog features art, music, books, history, and current events.  Very classy!

Paula of stuff i tell my sister shares just that–all the stuff she shares with her best friend who is also her sister.  It’s like sitting at their kitchen table.

Carol of Loethen Art Designs, Creativity, Camera, and Computer!

Rara of rarasaur, where frightfully wondrous things happen.  She has a fun, quirky, natural voice that I really enjoy.

Maggie Myklebust of flyawayhome is an American author living in Norway.  She shares her life on her blog and in her memoir Fly Away Home.

Now I get to pass forward The Sunshine Award to the following bloggers.  Please take a minute to pay them a visit.

Nikki of imayfly has a fun fresh voice with a wry sense of humor.

Island Traveler  of thisman’sjourney is refreshing and inspiring.  If you ever need a little hit of sweetness–and sunshine–check out his blog.

Tess at How The Cookie Crumbles is a sharp writer, and I really enjoy her flash fiction.

Naomi at The Teatime Reader has excellent taste in books, and reviews them for her readers intelligently, perceptively, and eloquently.

Christine of Texana’s Kitchen is funny and smart, a great storyteller, and she always leaves you with a great recipe to try out.

Russel of Russel Ray Photos will give you great photography tips, as well as share pearls of wisdom from his wise old Grandma!

4AM Writer will give you tips on how to balance your writing and your life.

Ruth of Ruth E. Hendricks Photography will give you sweet glimpses of sunshine and shadow in her beautiful photography.

The Geek Goddess of Two Different Girls will take you to interesting out of the way places and make you smile every time!

I have more be-very-lated awards to post, and many more great blogs and bloggers to introduce you to.  I don’t want to overwhem you, so I will dole them out like Blog Candy.   Thanks for stopping by.  Warmly, Naomi

Does This Make My Butts Look Big?

When my sister and I were in England to research a novel, on the outskirts of many a quaint village we saw signs that read “The Butts.”   Needless to say, this caused much speculation.  Walking around Shaftesbury in Dorset, we met an elderly woman outside her stone cottage, and  joined her as she watched workmen re-thatch her roof.

“That’s a woman who appreciates tradition,” I thought.  I asked if she knew the significance of The Butts.  Of course, she did!

In 1363, a law was enacted requiring all men to own a bow, and to focus on their archery skills every Sunday, so the king might call upon each village for archers in time of war.  This law forbade “on pain of death, all sport that took up time better spent on war training, especially archery practice.”   The places assigned for this were called The Butts, after the mounds of earth they leaned the targets against.  To avoid accidents, The Butts were usually situated just outside the village.  But wherever there are weapons, there are accidents.  King Henry I passed a law absolving anyone who accidentally killed someone during target practice.

The longbows were made of the strong flexible wood of the yew tree.  In every churchyard there was a yew.  One of many explanations for this is that in a churchyard the yew would be protected until many new longbows would be needed to defend the kingdom.  But the yew trees are still there, shading the churchyards.  Nowadays there are so many better ways to spend a Sunday, and so many better things to focus on.

c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Oddball Challenge: Week 9.

How I Survived Turkish Cooking Class

My specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches, with the burnt side scratched off and served charred side down.  If it’s really burnt, I serve it with wine.  Lots of wine.  But cooking is my son Eli’s passion, which is how I happened to sign up for a Turkish cooking class while we were in Istanbul last October.

Eveline, owner of A la Turka, is a Dutch woman who followed her bliss to cooking school in Paris, then to Istanbul, to open her own cooking school and restaurant.  Feyzi, her master chef, is an excellent teacher.  Surprisingly, he manages to impart his wisdom without uttering a word.

Feyzi  had me with his first demonstration on the importance of presentation, as shown below.

We were cooking a five course dinner–red lentil soup, stuffed eggplant, zucchini fritters, stuffed grape leaves, sweet cakes, and even Turkish coffee.  Eli was jazzed; I was in it for the two glasses of Turkish wine they promised us with our dinner.   I waited for a task fitting my limited repertoire of culinary skills–scraping the burnt crust off grilled cheese sandwiches, and popping the cork off wine bottles.  Peeling and cutting up tomatoes for eggplant stuffing fell to Eli and me.  We took up our knives and jumped into the proverbial frying pan.

Cooking is like magic.  You start with raw materials…

…wave your magic wand, or stir it with your spoon, to be more precise.

And abracadabra!  You have crisp tasty zucchini fritters!

When I volunteered to stir the eggplant stuffing…

…I didn’t know Feyzi wanted me to do it with my hands.

Next we took eggplants, peeled them and gutted them.

  Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a breeding nest of baby space aliens?

Oh no! They’re getting away!

Eveline suggested I use paper toweling to clean my hands, instead of my apron.  I looked down and noticed the mess of red tomato-gut handprints on my front.  Dang!  And everyone else’s aprons were spotless.   Meanwhile, Eli was sprinkling pistachio crumbs over the sweet cakes too far from the plate, and he was relieved of that duty.

I decided I couldn’t get into trouble if I took a job stirring the pot on the stove.

As you can see above, I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that my oven-mitted left hand had caught fire.  I did finally notice in time to save the hand, and the kitchen, if not my pride.

Eli says we were the ugly stepchildren in that class, but we did learn lots of tricks…like washing oniony hands in lemon water, or how to chop great quantities of herbs with a blade resembling a Klingon Bat’leth.

Among other things…



We were the stars of our own little cooking show, at least in our own minds.

We learned how to turn this…

…into this!

I also learned that I prefer white over red wine.  Nobody got killed.  And I’m thinking of starting my own cooking school.  Maybe I’ll call it “Cooking a La Turkeys.”

All images and words C2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinnertime.

Going With the Flow

My kids grew up with certain given truths.  Any party at our house is going to involve costumes.

Any snow day will involve staying home from school to play in the snow, even if school is not officially canceled.

And Mom doesn’t go in the water.  Not in pools.  Not in lakes.  And especially not in oceans.  That was their Dad’s province, and just one of the reasons I married him.

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These truths were held to be self-evident, until our first trip to Hawaii.


Not since I was a child had I experienced such a personal relationship with water, warm night air, and moonlight all at once.

Snorkeling changed my life.

 Just under the surface was an alien world, wonder-full, completely new to me.  As close as I’ll ever come to being a virgin again!

My kids even coaxed me into the swimming pools there.  Especially at night the atmosphere was surreal.

Warm, clear, and calm, but with sound of the surf ever present.


For a little while, we were amphibians.

Merfolk.

Golden.

My kids still know that any party we have at our house is going to involve costumes.  They know that snow days are for staying home and playing in the snow, no matter what anyone else thinks.  And they know Mom doesn’t go into the water.  Not in pools.  Not in lakes.  Especially not in oceans.

Except in Hawaii!

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime.

Click here, for more interpretations of Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme: Liquid.

All words and images c2012 Naomi Baltuck

Dandelions and Other Foreigners

A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions!  I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root.  Nothing works.  I am at my wit’s end!”

“That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.”

“Really?  Please tell me your secret, my friend!”

“It is very simple,” said Nasruddin.  “I have learned to love them.”

Dandelions are native to Eurasia, but have traveled all over this world.   In France they were called “Dent de Lion,” or “Lion’s Tooth,” because of their toothed leaves. In England they were, “Piss-a-Beds,” for their diuretic properties.  In Germany, Russia, and Italy they are “blowing flowers.”  In Catalan, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania they are  “milk flowers,”  “milkpots,” and “sow’s milk,” after the flower stem’s milky sap.  In Finland, Estonia, and Croatia, they are “butter flowers.”  In China, they are “flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside,”  while in Portugal, they are called, “your dad is bald,” after a game the children play with them.

A weed is  a weed only if it is unwanted.  These immigrants have been used by humans for food, winemaking, herbs, and medicine for all of our recorded history.  Their roots are roasted for a chicory-like hot drink.  They are brimming with vitamins, and they enrich the soil.

They were only introduced to North America by the first European settlers.  Foreign? Yes. But think of all the good things they have brought with them.  Think of summertime without their cheerful faces.  Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.

Click here for other interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual Point of View

Here is a link to check out other interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck.

No Such Thing As An Odd Couple

Couples come in all shapes and sizes.  They always have, since the beginning of time.

 

Life is short, and often cruel.  Finding true love, or even a true friend is not just a comfort.

It’s a miracle.

But I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. True love happens.

It is easy to recognize when you see it.

Love…

..in all its many forms…

..is a gift to us all.   It fills the world with light.

Let it shine!

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck 2012

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners.

For more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Friendship.

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