Dug this photo out of my scanned image archives and couldn’t help but smile. Here’s my sister Susan (with the hood on) and Sally (with the hood off) on the Cave of the Winds tour at Niagara Falls, a memory from road-tripping across Ontario with them in the early 90s.
On that journey, we discovered the Three Sisters Islands on the American side of the falls. Exploration ensued, as it would for the rest of our immersion into the outdoors of Ontario, all the way north to the Bruce Peninsula, with stops to hike the Elora Gorge and along the Mad River Gorge in Collingwood on what turned out to be a national holiday for hiking. Everywhere we turned, fall color painted the Niagara Escarpment as we followed it from the Niagara River to Lake Huron. It was the first I’d heard or learned of the Bruce Trail, a long distance trail I long to do someday.
Three Sisters is a book, a memoir, I’ve had in my heart for more than a decade, since we lost our dear sister Sue to cancer. I’m finally ready to write it now.
“Where history comes alive!” The tagline is splashed across a brochure on my desk, one of many I’ve revisited in the past week while going through my notes as I write my latest Explorer’s Guide. It’s a common phrase I see in marketing historic sites, just like “Step back in time.”
I prefer to see – and write – more concrete statements, and a little humor is always fun. Say “Serving sailors since 1869,” or “When your grandfather got that gleam in his eye…”
Do you have any zombie-killing examples to share?
Jimmies. Grinnies. The Rankin Bridge. Ardmore. “Pump an Iron.” Panther Hollow. Normalville.
My head is spinning with threads of memories snapping back like a gumband stretched into a dark room. Whap! Lunchtime runs for pepperoni rolls. Snap! Driving through McKees Rocks. Slap!! The bridge between a parking garage and a cancer ward where I took my sister daily.
I walked away from Pittsburgh 12 years ago to shut the door on the most painful chapter of my life: trying, and failing, to save my sister from cancer. I’m the oldest. I took it personally. I left a cloud of painful memories and abruptly broken ties in my wake. It was not my finest hour, but it was a hellish time. When I packed my car and left, I let the memories fade as fast as they would.
I’ve been in and around my old haunts for a week, and they’re speaking to me. Some whisper how they miss me. My heart leapt – a feeling I haven’t had in years – when I stepped out into the cool green of the Laurel Highlands, one of my favorite places on Earth. The story threads of my life here are wound around streetsigns and pizza joints, pathways and monuments, steep hillsides and old mining towns. It’s a web, a maze, triggering so many forgotten things.
I haven’t made sense of it all yet, but one thing is clear: I’m not afraid of it anymore. I’m riding the emotions like the Thunderbolt to see where they’ll lead me next.
When you’re out for a hike and you see a mushroom like this, you immediately think of gnomes. At least I do. I had the good fortune to take a trip last fall as part of my annual SATW Conference to Germany’s Black Forest. It’s been on my life list for hiking. After a day hike near Baden-Baden, our group was transported to Baiersbronn, a major jumping-off point for hiking in the Black Forest, so we could enjoy a rather rugged day hike in the deep dark woods. It’s the land of fairy tales, that’s for sure. And I’d like to spend a few weeks in here. Next time. Meanwhile, the gnomes have it to themselves when no one else is looking.
I returned home after the FOWA Conference to discover my newest publication in a FedEx box on the kitchen counter: South Florida: An Explorer’s Guide. Kathy and I had a devil of a time with this one, as we’d gotten about half our research done in 2004 when hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne wrecked places we knew and loved. I was in tears about Punta Gorda because I’d just fallen in love with it a week before Charley hit. We started anew in 2005 only to have Dennis, Katrina, and Wilma wreak havoc with our “finalized” research.
It took persistence and tenacity to finish the book (not to mention hundreds of phone calls), and still I discovered on this Keys trip that some of the shopping & eateries are no more because of the storm surges that hit last fall. Alas. But here it is, and it’s probably the most comprehensive coverage that South Florida has ever seen … heck, we even covered Wauchula and North Port and Goodland and Fort Drum with this one. You’ll be impressed! It should be in stores by the end of this month, but you can place an order now online.