Today is Ascension Day. It is the day marked by Christians that Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His resurrection, which is celebrated annually as Easter. For 40 days thereafter, Jesus walked and talked with his disciples until he was taken into the clouds.
There are plenty of clouds in this iconic setting, the Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth near Portland, Maine. It’s hard not to take a beautiful shot at this historic site, a scene often portrayed on many calendars over the years.
Ships at sea in part depend on lighthouses to keep their bearings. I envisioned the lighthouse’s beacon flashing in the overcast evening as a symbol to all of this sacred event.
“Portland Head Lighthouse and Ascension Day” is my Photo of the Week.
Planning for travel sometimes takes longer than the trips themselves. We prioritize the places we want to see, activities we want to do, and connect with any friends we can visit along the way.
We leave plenty of room for flexibility. Spontaneity spices up every trip. We also try to include some downtime, opportunity to recharge and reflect. As much as we travel, I never know when and how that time will arrive.
For me, travel is a multi-task opportunity. I bird, photograph, explore, meet the locals, and record the highlights. Occasionally, like on this trip, bad weather interferes with the plans we have made. We adjust accordingly.
Steady rain and low-hanging clouds obscured the mountains around us, which kept me inside. We were in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where we caught up to spring’s emergence. Coltsfoot and lady slippers bloomed.
I birded by window watching. Five deer emerged from the newly leafing trees to graze in the grassy meadow that served as a yard around the house that we had rented. A pair of common yellow-throated warblers fed and frolicked in the dampened branches of a nearby bush.
This was so much like home, both our former Ohio home and our newer home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Together the mountains, forests, rushing streams from too much spring rain, and the wildlife made it feel like home.
Yet, it wasn’t home, either Ohio or Virginia. We were transients, merely passing through, seeing the sights, and taking in the grandeur of the fabled Catskills.
That afternoon, my wife and I drove around the countryside despite the dreariness and the constant rain. No cell signal rendered our GPS useless. The perpetually winding roads hugged the bases of the mountains like a child clinging to his mother’s apron. Steep wooded hillsides on one side, roiling waters raced over boulders on the other. In the summer, these would be braided streams, more rocks than water.
With the low clouds, the mountains all scrunched in around us, a myriad of curves on the rural roads. Road signs, either numbered or named, were few and far between. Priding myself on knowing directions, I had lost my bearings.
We stopped at the local post office for directions to our desired destination. Just then, a customer arrived and told us to go to the stop sign and turn right. The way he pointed and his casualness about turning at the stop sign renewed my hope. Reality set in. The stop sign was five miles away. I made the right-hand turn, and I regained my orientation.
In Holmes County, Ohio, we had rolling hills, and expansive woodlots, abundant agriculture, valleys carved by old-aged streams, and helpful people. The same was valid for Virginia, only mountains east and west dwarfed the valley hills and farmlands. In the Catskills, farmland is confined to hillside and floodplain pastures. Gardeners erect six-foot high messed wire fences in small truck patches to abate the deer.
One particular quirk became obvious. Everywhere we went scores of roadside, no trespassing signs warned people to stay away. Apparently, property owners and hunting and fishing clubs control access not only to the land but also the water flowing through. Places for public access to the alluring trout streams were far and few between.
The legalistic signs unsettled me and softened my comparison to the mores of our former and current home. However, they in no way spoiled our appreciation for all the natural beauty and genuine human kindness we encountered along the way.
Located on a small peninsula at the southern end of Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga played a significant role in the formation of both countries of North America. With that in mind, I chose the American Flag flying over the old fort in honor of Memorial Day and as my Photo of the Week.
As a kid, I always wanted to play third base for the Cleveland Indians. Bubba Phillips was my hero.
I know. I could have picked a more respectable team like the dreaded New York Yankees. But I was born in a blue-collar steel town in northeast Ohio. Cheering for any other team was tantamount to treason.
I began playing baseball at age seven. Right away I had a strong inclination that I wasn’t major league baseball material. A one-hopper hit me square in the mouth loosening a few front teeth.
Still, I kept at it until my college days where I watched the Kent State University baseball team. A couple of years later the team’s catcher, the late, great Thurman Munson and fellow Cantonian, would become an all-star backstop for the Yankees.
Thurman lived my dream, just in a different position, although I spent most of my Little League and Hot Stove baseball days behind the plate as well. I never took one in the mouth though. Wearing a catcher’s mask helped with that.
Imagine my joy when our oldest grandchild took to baseball like a duck to water. He was a natural from little on up. Now he’s 15, a high school freshman, and pitching for the varsity baseball team. Did I mention that he also plays third base, and shortstop, too?
Like other youngsters, Evan started with t-ball and kept playing until he progressed to the varsity squad. Nana and I couldn’t be more proud.
I try to let the coaches do the instruction. I do share stories with Evan from my playing days, usually some of my own baseball bloopers. With my talent, what else do I have to say? Evan always politely listens, often without comment. His parents have taught him well.
At the games, I focus on capturing photos of Evan pitching, hitting, and fielding. It’s harder to yell at the umpires with a camera in your face.
My wife and I have enjoyed this baseball journey with Evan and his family so far. We take in as many games as possible. That means huddled up in winter coats and blankets in the spring to keep warm. In the summer’s scorching Virginia sunshine, we share any available shade and try to stay hydrated.
Evan goes all out in the sport he loves, sometimes much to his mother’s chagrin. I feel her pain when he slides headfirst into a base. A cloud of red dust rises around him from the powdery Virginia infields.
But the uniform always is ready for the next game, just like the young man who wears it. Win or lose, it is pure joy to watch him play. I don’t mind sharing my dreamy baseball romanticism with Evan at all.
I’m overjoyed that our grandson shares my passion for the game. I am even more grateful that he has had many opportunities to play and performs well, whether in the field, on the mound, or at bat. Sure he makes errors, gives up hits, or strikes out. But he is improving, gaining confidence, learning the game, and living his dream and mine.
Even as a grandfather, I still envision playing third base or perhaps pitching for the Cleveland Indians. Lord knows they could use some decent pitchers right now.
My dream is and was a fantasy. I knew that from the time the ball bloodied my lip decades ago. My grandson’s aspiration, however, is just now unfolding. I’ll let you know when he takes the mound for the Cleveland Indians.
My mother was a very talented woman. If she were still living, Mom would likely deny the obvious. She was modest, too.
My siblings and I would have plenty of evidence to support our case. Our mother was multi-talented. She had to be to raise five children while Dad was off working or fishing or hunting or going to meetings.
Many others would also affirm Mom’s gifts, especially her artistic talents. Mom would likely shake her head in dismay about all of the fuss about her beautiful paintings.
Our father was an outdoorsman. Mom, on the other hand, brought the outdoors indoors through her lovely creations. She painted most often in watercolors and preferred doing landscapes. She created hundreds of them.
Mom seldom seemed happy with the results, however. She sold many paintings in her life, much too cheaply in my biased opinion. Mom even won several awards in local art shows around northeast Ohio.
It wasn’t that Mom was a perfectionist. She lacked self-confidence even though encouraged by our doting father and her artist friends and mentors.
If Mom wasn’t satisfied with a painting, she at times painted another scene on the reverse side of the watercolor paper. If such a painting sold, the buyer got a two for one deal.
I suppose other artists derogated their own works, too, whether painters, sculptors, or even writers for that matter. Mom wasn’t overt about her discouragement. She would just toss a nearly finished painting in what she called “the junk pile” and began again.
After Mom died seven years ago, my brothers and sisters and our spouses discovered the treasure trove of incomplete watercolors. As we sorted through them, we agreed that “junk pile” definitely was a misnomer.
We pulled some real gems from that stockpile of rejected paintings. We made sure grandchildren and other relatives and friends could choose the pieces they liked for posterity.
As we delved deeper into her things, we discovered drawings and etchings and paintings from her high school years. Mom showed much promise even as a teenager.
After high school, Mom wanted to attend art school. But in those days, that seemed an extravagance to her parents. They insisted business school a better fit for a young woman who eventually would marry and have children.
That’s pretty much what happened, too. However, with our father’s encouragement, Mom began art lessons with some noted local professional artists. Our mother blossomed as an accomplished artist.
Those classes taught her a lot and created lifetime friendships. Mom and Dad even attended weeklong workshops out of state. Mom would paint while Dad scoured local farm fields for Indian artifacts with the farmers’ permission of course.
Though they had their moments, our parents made a good team. Dad passed on to us the love of all things nature, and Mom imprinted that love in colorful works of art.
Our mother was a very gifted woman far beyond being an artist. Marian Stambaugh was a devoted wife to a fault, a fair, loving mother, a proud grandmother, and a friend to many.
Her legacy, however, will be her inspiring paintings. Landscapes, still life, and renderings of old barns and vehicles adorn the walls of family, friends, and her art connoisseur customers.
Our mother captured life as she saw it, and she saw it well. The rest of us are the beneficiaries of her most ardent talent. Her many paintings will display her skills, and proclaim the glory of nature for decades to come.
My wife is quite the gardner. This spring bouquet in her main flower garden at our former Ohio home was proof of that.
Colorful peonies, irises, lilies, and daisies were only some of the flowers that comprised this large flower garden. It took a lot of work. But clearly, all of her efforts paid off. In fact, we often received compliments from passersby on our busy county highway. They appreciated Neva’s beautiful floral display. I hope you do as well.