Category Archives: Travel

Polar bears

In the process of simplifying/purging, I came across photos from a Sepember 2009 trip to the shores of the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, to see polar bears. The hunting lodge where we stayed is on the migratory path of the polar bears and between hunting seasons, the camp owners decideed to offer opportunities to see polars bears.

We flew in on a four-seater plane, landing on a clearing along the Bay. The accommodations were austere (cabins only had heat at night and the bathrooms were in the main lodge) but the food was fantastic.

The camp was enclosed by a high fence and we only left the camp with armed escorts. Every day, we ventured out on makeshift touring vehicles (think ATVs pulling, small flat-bed trailers with old car seats bolted to them). Our guides were two man who had grown up in this remote area of Manitoba, 150 miles from the nearest city.

The opportunity to see polar bears every day, in their natural habitat, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were fortunate to have an aspiring photographer on the trip (my camera batteries died the first day), and these are his photographs.

I remember how blessed I felt to be one of eleven people on this trip, standing on the shores of the Hudson Bay, with beautiful flowers and fall colors all around–and polar bears in abundance.

A mother and cubs in front of the lodge
Cubs playing in the river

Up north

This past weekend, my sisters and I went “up north” (as we say in Michigan, although there seems to be some debate as to where “north” begins). A friend generously let us use her cottage on a small lake in northwestern Michigan.

Michigan is said to have 11,000 inland lakes, in addition to the the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) that outline the state (Lake Ontario is east of Michigan).

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Lake Michigan and Lake Huron give Michigan its mitten shape. Lake Superior is north of the Upper Peninsula; Lake Erie touches southeastern Michigan and borders Ohio; Lake Ontario borders New York. Only Lake Michigan does not share a border with Ontario, Canada.

The inland lakes vary in size from Houghton Lake, which covers more than 20,000 acres to small lakes like the one we visited (which I once kayaked around in 45 minutes).

The weekend was very peaceful and relaxing, and I am grateful for my friend’s generosity and my sisters company.

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My sisters returning home.
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Sunset over the lake
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What the future will bring

I learned to sew in Home Economics class when I was eleven years old, and I continued to sew for the next 40 years—until I got a job that required travel more than half of the year. When I was at home, I had too much catching up to do to sit and sew.

For me, sewing requires dedicated time and a certain state of mind. I need to be able to focus on what I am making. Sewing gives me the most pleasure when I can spend an hour or two (or more) at my sewing machine.

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Knitting has taken up some of the space I would have devoted to sewing; gardening has taken up some as well. They are both creative outlets for me, but they are not sewing.

Sewing was spiritual for me. I thought it was almost miraculous that I could take a rectangular piece of fabric and in as little as a half hour, turn that piece of fabric into a skirt. The idea of something being transformed into something else spoke to me of God’s creating from nothing and of God’s being able to reshape us (I love the image of God as a potter, creating something from a lump of clay).

I have other hobbies I can do while doing something else (I can knit while watching television, for example, or read a book while I am in a waiting room) but sewing requires its own space and time without distractions.

By the time my friend Jim got brain cancer, I hadn’t done any serious sewing for about ten years. We had not talked about my sewing, so I was surprised when, a few days before he died, he said, “I hope you sew again.” It seemed to come out of left field, but when I reflect on it now, I can see what he saw—my life was fuller when I sewed. I was more myself with that creative outlet.

But since he died ten years ago, I still have not started sewing again.

Then one day in France three months ago, I had the thought, “I want to sew.” A few days later, I was in a baby shop looking at hand-sewn bibs, and again I thought, “I want to sew.”

Ironically, that morning at prayer, two Scriptures had spoken to me:

Isaiah 43:16-17: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see I am doing something new, and

Philippians 3:14: Just one thing, forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead….

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Sewing is from my past; could it also be in my future?

Is it time for me to return to this hobby of old, even to see if it is still something that brings me joy?

Do you have a hobby from your youth that still calls to you? That still engages your imagination and fosters a sense of creativity?

Art outside museums

Throughout my travels in France, I visited several art museums, and I also noticed art in some unexpected places. The main street in Barbizon, for example, featured mosaic reproductions of works by artists who lived and woked in Barbizon in the 19th century.

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Barbizon-Art-France

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Honfleur sits along the northern end of the Seine River and this outdoor wall art is representative of the nautical feel of the town.

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In Angers, this artistic garden in what had been the moat around the castle drew my attention.

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This mural in Lyon covered an entire building.

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I was in Lyon during Holy Week and came upon these Stations of the Cross. The juxtaposition of this modern interpretation of the Passion of Jesus on the ancient pillars was striking.

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Saugatuck Stroll

A visit with friends in Holland, MI, led to a side trip to Saugatuck, MI, a town I had never visited. It is a quaint tourist town on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. Shops and restaurants line the streets, with gardens and parks tucked in along the way.

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One of the gardens in Saugatuck.
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Scupture in front of the Inn of Saugatuck (I also appreciated the flag of Ukraine.)
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Double doors.

In a holy place

When I walked into the Notre Dame Cathedral at Bayeux, France, two things happened.

First, I had a felt sense of the prayers that had been offered there over the years (the Cathedral was built in the 11th century), as if I was part of the communion of saints—I was joining my prayers to all the people who had prayed in this space over the centuries. Their prayers hung in the air, filling the vast space; I could almost hear their shouts of gratitude and cries of anguish. I walked into that communion of saints, and I prayed in gratitude for the opportunity to be there, to be part of this community of faith.

I was reminded of the tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and imagined a parade of people from the past, heads bowed in prayer.

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One of the Communion of Saints tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California
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Tapestries line the interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

(The Cathedral at Bayeux also has a tapestry, which depicts the adventures of William the Conqueror in 1066 and is now housed in a museum near the Cathedral.)

The second thing that happened when I walked into the Cathedral was a memory of a mystical vision I had almost forty years ago.

In the vision, I was in an old church like this one (I had been in Spain a few years earlier and had visited several churches like the one in Bayeux—stone walls, floors and pillars and no permanent pews or fabric to soften the church interior).

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Interior of Notre Dame Cathedral, Bayeux, France

When I had the vision, though, I was praying in the convent chapel at my parish in Pennsylvania.

In the vision, I saw myself lying prostrate on the floor of a medieval cathedral. I could feel how hard the stone was against my body and how cold it felt against my arms. Then, the floor began to shift and rise up, becoming a hand that was lifting me up, and I knew it was the hand of God. God said to me, “I will hold you.”

It was soon after that vision that I moved to a l’Arche community, and I thought of that vision many times during my time in l’Arche and how God held me.

Today is the feast of St. Norbert, an 11th century French priest who was known for his deep faith. The writing in the Liturgy of the Hours, says, “He spent many hours in contemplation of the divine mysteries and fearlessly spread the spiritual insights which were the fruit of his meditation.”

I wondered about the spiritual insights of my meditation, and then I remembered my vision. God will hold me.

God did hold me during my time in l’Arche, and I came away from that experience with a deep awareness of God’s care for me. Living in l’Arche was the most challenging thing I had ever done and also the most fruitful—I learned so much about myself.

The vision was a gift, a promise from God that I would be held. Almost forty years later, the vision still consoles me.

Whimsical France

My back yard garden is dotted with bits of whimsy–yard art and wind chimes tucked in among the flowers–so imagine my joy at discovering bits of whimsy during my travels around France. Here is a sampling.

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It is not uncommon to see animals on roof tops–here are two cats in Honfleur.
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Blue snail in Bayeux

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A person beneath an umbrella in a fountain in Bayeux.

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Giant-sized gardening tools in LeMans

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Blue gorilla in the Beau Arts Gardens in Angers

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Church gate in Albi

Extra touches

This was the first time I traveled with Overseas Advendure Travel (O.A.T.) and hopefully not my last. O.A.T. specializes in small groups and solo-travelers; we were eight people for our main tour (three more had planned to come but covid changed their plans), and I did not have to pay a “solo-supplement” to have my own room. Some other pluses were that we stayed in each location for several nights, giving me time to get to know a place a bit and also setting a comfortable travel pace. We did day trips and also participated in a number of activities that added interest to the trip.

In Barbizon, I took a sculpture class with Melanie Quentin.

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My artistic talents are somewhat limited; but it was great fun working with clay. I have a new appreciation for sculptors.

Bayeux is known for lace-making. We visited the Museum of Fine Arts and then I took a lace-making class with Cécile Roquier at the Lace Conservatory.

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Hand-made lace using bobbins. It took me a little bit of practice to learn the process of criss-crossing the bobbins to make a pattern.
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The project I worked on. The process is slow (perhaps because I was new); I added maybe six rows to this piece.
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Madame Roquier made these lace hearts and is selling them to raise money to support Ukrainian refugees.

From Carcassone (where we stayed inside the walled city), we ventured out to Chateau Auzias. We walked through the vineyard and learned about the pruning process. Then we toured the Cave, where the wine is made, and then we had the opportunity to mix our own red blend.

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Anastasia getting ready for our wine blending class.

At Maison Fleuret in Paris, we took a macaron-making class . Let me just say that making macarons is as much science as baking, and I have a new appreciation for all that goes into making them.

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The finished product!

Touring with O.A.T. was fun and educational. I am still on a “travel high” even though I have been home more than a month.