After the 3- day walk, we decided to take a short vacation and headed up the Maine Coast.  Need I even say that we stopped at the L.L. Bean mothership in Freeport?  It was a fairly short stop, though, and we didn’t buy out the store.

We also stayed one night in Bar Harbor, which is the last major city on the tourist route off Highway 1 in Maine.  It was buzzing with cruise passengers from a ship that heads from New York up to Nova Scotia, as well as with the normal summer tourist trade.   We had a fabulous dinner at  Mache Bistro, not far from our bed and breakfast, and after dinner, we took a drive in Acadia National Park on the Park Loop road, which affords beautiful views of Bar Harbor (see below).

Then, the following morning we headed back on Route 1 for a couple of hours to the easternmost point in the United States:  Lubec, Maine.

A short bridge ride from Lubec, you pass through Canadian Customs and arrive on Campobello Island in New Brunswick.   Campobello–the scene of the famous play and movie Sunrise at Campobello with Ralph Bellamy– was the summer home of the F.D. Roosevelts, and a place I have always wanted to visit.  It was here that FDR, the virus he had picked up from a stop at a  boy scout camp already working in his body, fell ill with polio in 1921.  The “cottage” (it’s more like a small mansion) is wonderfully kept, with all of the original furnishings, and you can wander the grounds and trails that the family enjoyed during their many summers on the island.  The dock to the Bay of Fundy–which has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world–has been rebuilt, but you can still see the posts from the original dock that would have been used in transporting the paralyzed and very ill future president to the boat that would carry him back to the mainland for treatment.

Campobello does not quite resonate with the same history as the residence at Hyde Park and Eleanor Roosevelt’s beloved Val-Kill, where you can almost sense the energy of the historic figures that walked here during the Roosevelts’ time in public office. Campobello feels more personal.  Here, FDR came every summer from the time he was a baby until he contracted polio in 1921–he would make only three visits to Campobello after that before he died.   Here, the young Eleanor Roosevelt came to stay in 1903 for a summer visit while FDR was courting her;  this is where  the Roosevelt children spent their summers growing up, and Eleanor came here later in life to write her memoirs, buoyed by the salt air, lack of telephones, and the natural beauty that is all around. There was no electricity on Campobello until 1948, and the kitchen still looks like it dates from the turn of the century.

I have a fondness for historical sites–it sparks the imagination to wonder what conversations, both ordinary and momentous, took place in these rooms.  My dad and grandfather were great fans of FDR, and talked of him often when I was growing up.  Even in those days, no one spoke much of FDR’s paralysis, which was so well hidden and carefully managed during his presidency.     My  mother, on the other hand,  didn’t care for FDR–she used to refer to the WPA as “We Piddle Around” , for example— so we had very interesting dinner conversations when talk of the New Deal came up.  Ultimately, I have come to admire Eleanor Roosevelt even more than her husband, both for the way she transformed herself and for her courage in advocating social positions that were far ahead of her time.  A former neighbor now in her 90s,  who I sometimes visit in her nursing home, talked of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt once in the 1940s: “Before she opened her mouth, she was the ugliest woman I had ever seen.  And after she opened it, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.”  Eleanor also proved that one can remain an active, contributing citizen until a very late age.  As she said, “I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.”   Good words to remember. 

The Breast Cancer 3 day Walk

As a recent survivor and in honor of my 60th birthday, I decided to do the Susan G. Komen 3 day, 60 mile walk in Boston.  The walk started Friday and concluded today.  To participate, you have to raise a minimum of $2300, which goes to breast cancer research and community support.  Thanks to my generous friends, family, and colleagues, I was able to exceed this goal by several hundred dollars, which makes me feel very good that my birthday initiative is making a contribution to advancing treatment and finding a cure for this disease.

About 1700 women –and a number of men– participated in the walk, which traversed some historic and beautiful sections of Boston.   The event began with an opening ceremony.   There were speeches from the organizers, and a parade of banners by survivors that ended in a circle around the center of the concourse. Walk participants were invited to write the names of loved ones and friends who have succumbed to the disease on a giant banner, which was then also raised in the center of the concourse. It was very moving.

The walk began about 7:15 a.m., but it was already quite hot, and eventually rose past 100–the hottest day on record in Boston since 1926.   Due to the press of participants, it was very crowded and as we had to cross several streets with traffic lights, the going was slow.   Eventually–about 12:30 p.m.–the route had to be closed because of the extreme heat, and we were bussed to lunch and then to the camp–a Jewish high school in Waltham– where most of the participants were staying.    Camping was not for me, so I elected the creature comforts of a hotel room, which I very much appreciated especially with the heat.

The route had several “pit stops” and the first couple of these on the first day were extremely crowded.  But also along the route were both official and unofficial cheering stations.

The hospitality and warmth of Bostonians is incredible!  Some people left out coolers with water, ice or popsicles; others decorated their yards, and  left their sprinkler on so that it  crossed our path.

Others had set up lawn chairs and expressed their thanks for our walking as we passed, some with spritzers of water, receptacles for our garbage, or baskets of candy.

Small children gave us licorice and stickers.  It will be hard to get used to not being thanked for walking when I return!

Yesterday it rained in the morning and was much cooler, though still well into the 80s by afternoon when I finished 20.8 miles.  I was near the beginning of the line, so the pit stops were not crowded when I got there.  I made the 20 miles by 2:15, none the worse for wear except for  “golfer’s vasculitis”–a non painful rash that is a hazard for the over 50 crowd of walking too long in the heat.

Today’s walk took us through Cambridge, Harvard Square, the MIT campus and downtown Boston, where one of our pit stops was not far from this iconic statue of Boston, George Washington on a prancing horse:

Today’s walk was also a bit shorter–about 17 miles–and just about everyone had one or more blisters, including me.  My feet were pretty sore, so I took it slow and easy and crossed the finish line about 3:30 p.m., with Marty there to greet me.  We walked down the “Victory Lane” to cheers on both sides.

It was a moving experience.  I met countless people along the way who were  united in one cause:  to support the effort to find a cure for breast cancer.  I hope that my over 100,000 steps during these  3 days–and the generosity of my friends–has brought that day closer.

Welcome to the Sixties

On Sunday I turned sixty.   In many parts of Asia, to turn 60 is a significant event–more significant than 50, which we Americans mark as important because it’s half a century.   In Japan, the 60th birthday is called kanreki (還暦)  which means return to infancy (although for some reason, only for men).  It is also important in China and Korea.    This is based on the Chinese calendar which was originally organized in 60 year cycles, so that the planetary cycle returns to the same position as when you were born.   So, in a sense, to turn 60 is not only a recognition of longevity (and maybe wisdom), but also signifies that one has an opportunity to begin anew.

In honor of this event, and in honor of beginning a new decade, I decided to restart a blog.  I kept a blog faithfully when I was in India, and less faithfully when I returned to the United States and then went back out again, this time to China  (the links to my previous blogs are on the right).   I am calling it “The Age of Wander”  because I’m really not sure which direction these years will take me.   Maybe only as close as my garden, which is now blossoming the inevitable zucchini as well as grapes, beans, and herbs?    Or perhaps as far away as India again, or Africa?   Who knows?   I also look forward to the journey of values and knowledge, which grew immeasurably between 50 and 60, and which I assume will do so again in the new decade.

As of this writing, I haven’t quite gotten my arms around being sixty.  It seems like it must be incredibly old, but I keep thinking of that phrase used by the famous advice columnist,  Ann Landers, who said, “Age–it’s only a number, baby.”    On Sunday, I ran an 8 mile race in Stowe VT and came in 8 out of 10 in my age group.  Of  course, the 10 of us were the oldest female runners in a field of more than 900, but it still impressed on me that I have a ways to go before I am in really great shape.  It does feel like an opportunity to begin anew, and I hope to make my biggest contributions yet to our troubled and majestic planet. Please join me for the journey.