Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.

Archive for the ‘Adventures’ Category

Ruts in the Road

This morning I finished reading The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck. In 2007 he bought a Conestoga wagon and a pair of mules in Kansas and he and his brother followed the ruts of the Oregon Trail from St Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon. A four month trek of 2,100 miles.

I hadn’t realized that the Oregon Trail had been so crowded in the 19th century. One pioneer reported that on a day in June of 1849, 3,000 wagons were wobbling across the plains. In total, between 1845 and 1869, 500,000 settlers crossed North America; about half reached the Willamette Valley in Oregon. A woman would ride in the wagon, on a horse, or walk, deliver a baby one day and two days later, she and her family rejoined the unceasing  procession west. Dust churned up and drifted to the horizon. With little protection from the sun, everyone’s faces and wrists toughened and turned buffalo brown.

To lighten the wagons, possessions were cast out along the wayside or left behind at a campsite. The trail became a shopper’s paradise; enterprising entrepreneurs gathered up the discarded furnishings and hastily set up stores stocked with what they had found as well as withthe basic necessities  of flour, salt, coffee, and lard.

As I read about the gritty men, women, and children who were willing to endure the heat, insects, dust, incessant wind, the uncertainties of moving west, I remembered another book, Trains and Lovers, in which Alexander MacCall Smith’s protagonist “began to understand what it was that held this new society (Australia) together. He appreciated the rough equality, the resolute cheerfulness, the attitude of dogged acceptance of the harshness of nature, of dust, of flies, of drought. (He thought) Scotland was soft and feminine; all greenery and diffused light. Australia was stark, the sun chiseling out hard contrasts of light and shade. Scotland was forgiving; Australia was uncompromising and yet everywhere here was a sense of being untrammeled, unconstrained. Nobody would tell you what to do in Australia. Nobody was better than the next man. Or so the official version went.”

What is the search for place, the exploring that urges us on? Is it that we are looking for place or self? Maybe place and self share a curious, compelling unity. Perhaps going out toward places unknown to us reconciles our sense of impermanence and the mysterious continuity we share and make and are, with all human life.

In a quiet way, we who have come to live at the senior residence of  Friends House, have, like all pioneers, uprooted ourselves, discarded our possessions along the way, and have endeavored to find our selves in this place new to us. A few who have come here to live exclusively among the elderly have become depressed, even physically ill. They lose their appetite, can’t sleep, become fragile, and may be hospitalized for a while.

Not many. Yesterday I met a prospective resident who was touring Friends House and I asked her what she thought of the place. “I feel I’ve discovered a village,” she smiled.

“Perfect!” I said. “Apply! Move in! I had the same feeling when I first visited. You’ve found your community!”


Cancer: What to Do? Answer: Write a Book

“What was your first reaction, Donna, when you were diagnosed with bladder cancer?” my friend Sue asked. She is a compassionate breast cancer survivor and had driven me to the hospital for surgery.

I told her, “I was stunned. Dopey. I came home and just sat in the sunshine on the front porch steps. After a while, I asked myself, ‘Well, if you have six months left, what needs to be done?’ I mulled over my options and decided to clean out the attic. Sort and give away. Who else would know what to do with all that stuff?”

I found the wooden toy train that used to encircle the Christmas tree and emailed my adult grandson to see if he’d like it. “I don’t decorate for Christmas, Gran, so I can’t use the train.” I put it back. I heaved a lot of old baskets and just-in-case cardboard boxes out the attic door. And I found three cartons of memorabilia from the peace walks I’d joined in the 1980s. Aaaah. I sat on the floor for hours poring over memories, savoring those adventurous times of living outdoors, walking thousands of miles with hundreds of people committed to a world of peaceful co-existence. (more…)

Lettuce, Lettuce – Who’s Got the Lettuce?

I’ve been coming to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico since 1988 and have rarely had ladies to lunch. It happened a few times when I owned a house here, but, since becoming a renter, serving lunch has been too much of a challenge. But last week at a Gran Bazar, a fancy rummage sale, I found a length of bright fabric I liked, brought it to the house and flung it across the round table in the portal. It made me want to have a fiesta!

Whenever I lead a memoir-writing workshop at home in Capitola, CA, I serve curry chicken salad on beds of lettuce and decorated with fruit and flowers. Here in Alamos, I asked at Hacienda de los Santos if I could buy enough curried chicken salad for six women. “Yes, si, it is possíble.” I emailed five friends. They all could come.

Looking in the drawers of the sideboard in this rental house, I found no napkins that complemented the red, brown, bronze and copper colors of the cloth. I stopped in a few shops and drove with a friend to the Artisanas Co-op on the edge of town. Nothing, nada. (more…)

Making Cookies in Mexico

This winter, a couple of weeks after I’d arrived in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, I wanted to make cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with nuts. And CHIA! The Aztecs used chia seeds as a major source of nutrition and, when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they suspected that locals gave chia a religious quality – something like corn representing life to the Native Americans of the Southwest. So, naturally, the Conquistadores banned chia. Only the Tarahumaras, isolated in the Sierra Madres, continued to use it. As they ran barefoot over a hundred miles of mountains, they reached around to a little bag hanging on their belts and popped seeds into their mouths.

“Chia is making a major comeback,” say my friends Louise and Rob, who are encouraging farmers in Mexico to grow the seed. In California, healthfood stores carry chia. I like the crunch in oatmeal, on salads and, especially, in cookies.

Would Louise and Rob give me some chia seeds? They would.

I checked the cookie sheets in this rental house. Yes.

A mixer and mixing bowl? Yes.

Flour, sugar, salt…Yes (more…)

Update from Alamos

During these weeks in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, I read more than I do when in Capitola, California. In five weeks, I’ve read James Michener’s Mexico, two memoirs by Elizabeth Borton De Treviño, and, yesterday, finished The Chronicles of Guaymas, by David E Stuart. I feel as though I understand a little bit more about the culture of Mexico than I have before.

I’ve always noticed the pleasant formality with which Mexican friends greet me. They always sincerely ask Como esta? (How are you?) and, satisfied with my answer, ask Y su familia? Sus hijos? They lean toward me, Todo okay?

Almost every Mexican driving by waves or nods and many call out, Buenos Dias, Señora! One day last year, as I was walking along Calle Juarez, my friend Benjamin Anaya screeched his white pickup to a halt, called out, Hóla, Donna! and leaped out to hug me. We were inquiring about each other’s families before realizing we were holding up traffic. No one had honked or yelled, they just waited and watched two friends happy to see each other. Friendship in Mexico is more important than time. (more…)

Un Pueblo Magico

Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, a small Colonial village in northern Mexico, is officially designated by the federal tourist board as “Un Pueblo Magico.”

The dust had hardly settled on the battlefields of the Conquest of Mexico in 1521 when Spaniards began to extend the boundaries of their new country toward the north and west. They had noted the silver and gold ornaments the Aztecs wore and coveted the source of those precious metals. The first European to follow Indian trails through this valley was probably Diego de Guzman, hunting not only for gold and silver, but for Indians to sell as slaves. By the last quarter of the 17th century, silver mines were developing near Alamos. By the mid- 18th century, the local mines were the richest in the world. Twenty percent of the silver was sent by trains of 1,000 burros to Vera Cruz to be shipped to the King of Spain. Alamos women shopped in Paris for their velvet and silk gowns and filled their mansions with the world’s finest furnishings. Alamos supported opera and symphony, formal teas, elegant banquets, and afternoon rides in comfortable carriages. The population grew to 30,000 residents. (more…)

Guest Post: Takin’ It Easy to Winslow, Arizona

By Patricia Hamilton

This was originally posted on the blog California Woman.

Salinas Train Depot, Salinas, California. Waiting for the Amtrak bus, I satisfied my early morning caffeine craving at nearby Olivia’s Cafe—here’s Olivia and  the morning crowd. I spoke Spanish with them, but the nice guy with the white shirt on the end wanted me to use his language, Italian, “Same thing” he said.

Take It Easy” is the title of a song written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, and most famously recorded by the Eagles (with Frey singing lead vocals). It was the band’s first single, released on May 1, 1972. The lyric, “Well, I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” made the town still famous today. Well, if not famous, vaguely familiar in the recesses of our younger rock-n-roller minds! (more…)

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