September 2: On Wednesday, as Jeremiah and I entered the movie theater, we bumped into an acquaintance who had taken herself to the earlier showing of Spirited Away. “I’m pretty good at predicting storylines,” she said, “but this film constantly surprises me. You’ll enjoy it.” I did.
Prior to Wednesday, I hadn’t seen my acquaintance in years. Yet we crossed paths again this morning, just two days later. We laughed at the coincidence — and resumed our conversation about Spirited Away. For ten minutes, we traded insights and appreciations. We didn’t catch up on each other’s lives; but when we bump into each other again, we’ll have a new starting place for friendship.
Bonus: At our local brewery on Wednesday night, Jeremiah and I also bumped into dear family friends, who recounted their trip to Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. They graciously shared with me this photo of Mount Rainier (above). Photo by Bill Stewart.
September 3: A busy day at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens left me parking beyond the orchid greenhouse. As I trundled the long way to the museum house (Hillwood’s owner, Marjorie Merriweather Post, had an extraordinary eye for the decorative arts), I encountered a garden tour. Despite many joyful meanderings among Hillwood’s gardens, I’d never taken a tour. With the guide’s permission, I tagged along.
Favorite moment #1: The lovely wall fountain in the French parterre garden was fashioned by a sculptor from Greece who had emigrated to the United States to carve gargoyles for Washington’s National Cathedral. Our guide also remembered him fondly as her neighbor.
Favorite moment #2: Marjorie Merriweather Post oversaw the creation of Hillwood’s formal gardens and viewsheds. She was a businesswoman, philanthropist, owner of General Foods Corporation (and original owner of Mar-a-Lago). She also had Washington, DC, connections. Gazing from her back lawn to the distant Washington Monument nestled in a dip in the trees, she reportedly wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior asking if the monument could be moved just a smidge to the left.
Bonus: Hillwood is filled with French and Russian Imperial porcelain and furnishings. The dining table is set for dinner, the morning room for breakfast, and the expansive lawn invites luncheon parties. Whenever I visit Hillwood, I dress with care. (Definitely no sneakers and jeans.) To my surprise and delight, I saw that nearly every other woman visiting today dressed likewise. Far from being tourists in a museum, we were guests in Mrs. Post’s home. Thank you, Mrs. Post, for the lemonade, cookies, and lovely day.
September 4: When our neighbor Dave moved to California six or seven years ago, he gave Jeremiah four crates of vinyl records, mostly dating from the 1970s and 1980s. I still have Dave’s mobile number from the days when our sons played together and our lives overlapped. I’ve often thought about texting Dave when I slip his Van Morrison records onto the turntable. But I don’t.
Then, to my delight, Dave left a comment on my last post. (Yay, Bull Durham.)
The years and distance have collapsed. Thinking of Dave, I watched Bull Durham twice tonight. As the film reminds me, baseball is a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. And sometimes it rains.
And sometimes old friends pop up and bring sunshine.
September 5: I allowed myself to be afraid this morning. And I got on my bike anyway.
A gentle descent is lovely, isn’t it? I wobbled along, stopping only to admire a falcon resting atop a stump and to fetch a runaway water bottle. Our local creek (and my companion) Four Mile Run widened imperiously until it joined the Potomac, and I followed the river south to my destination: a scone and a cup of coffee in Old Town, Alexandria.
I huffed back uphill. By 9:30 am, the trail was crowded; bikes whizzed past me while I teetered around two-abreast walkers. And then I fell.
Two pedestrians helped me to the verge, and a cyclist slowed down. “Are you ok?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, although I wasn’t. He looked at me and dismounted. Then he threw open his arms. I fell into his hug, sobbing. “Is this your first fall?” I nodded my helmet against his chest. “It’s scary, isn’t it?” I sobbed and bumped his chest again.
He released me. “Let’s check you out,” he said. “Ankles? I see that scrape on your knee. Anything else? Hips, elbows, wrists — good for you for wearing gloves! — shoulders?” I was astonished to see that I was fine. “Can you get home ok?” Yes, I said. I only had about five miles to go. With a gentle pat on my back he mounted his bicycle, wished me well, and disappeared.
I returned to the trail, still crying a little. I saw a steeple in the distance, reaching above the trees. “God,” I whimpered, “please help me get home.” God replied, “I already did.”
September 6: I sharpened my “substitute teacher” pencils today and returned to school as a fourth grade reading specialist. Two of my three students remembered me from last year. “We had you in music and Spanish!” Oh dear. “Did I tell you a story?” I asked.
“Yes! The one about the baby’s bottom!” “That’s right!” said the other student. “And you were in college!” Then the third student wanted to hear the story. Sigh.
The story’s not particularly clever. But I guess anything involving babies’ bottoms is funny in elementary school — and unforgettable.
September 7: Yesterday, I teased Kevin about using his Apple Watch to locate his cell phone. I urged him to use his memory instead — and added with considerable self-congratulations, “to keep your mind sharp.” Well guess who lost her cell phone today right here in the house. For a long time.
I’ve now decided that humility helps keep one’s mind sharp too — and one’s heart soft.
September 8: Despite my scrapes and bruises, I went to yoga class today. (My joints — miraculously— are fine. I mean, same as usual 🙃.) Our focus today was “ease in effort.”
And I was the only student. That meant lots of hands-on assists, tailored balance challenges (Warrior Three!), and personal coaching. It also meant lots of sweat and lots of laughter.
I’ve known my teacher for years. And today I felt like we became friends.
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