Fellow Travelers

It was a lovely Easter weekend, but Monday morning came crashing down upon our heads like a furious hailstorm. I will spare you the gory details, but it was not pretty. I drove to my early morning doctor’s appointment feeling beleaguered and rattled to the core.

I stood in line at the reception desk behind a man I would consider to be the exact opposite of who I am in just about every respect. He was a wiry, older white man with no discernible top teeth. He reeked of cigarette smoke. I caught only snatches of what he was saying to the receptionist, but I could feel myself stiffen when I heard him say in a thick southern accent that this country was goin’ to hell. I was just waiting for him to start extolling the virtues of Donald Trump. I wondered if the very sight of my non-Caucasian face might make him bridle. He finally got checked in and shuffled off somewhere. I finished checking in too and found an empty seat in the waiting room as far away from anyone else as I could.

To my dismay, the man who had been ahead of me reappeared and sat down next to me. I pretended not to notice, and was already deploying my imaginary bubble shield when he addressed me.

“Hello, how are you?” he asked politely.

“I’m fine, thanks,” I replied warily. “How are you?”

“I been better,” he said.

“Oh. Well…I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah…had to take another day off work to come back here to get checked out. When I was here last week they found a spot on my lung. A big one. I knew somethin’ was wrong, but I avoided coming to see a doctor, ’cause I was afraid of what they were going to find.”

“I’m sorry. I hope it turns out to be nothing…”

“That’s how my dad and my brother died.”

“Oh, that’s terrible…”

“Yeah, well it’s been a terrible year. My daughter just died too.”

“What?! Oh no!”

“She was in a big accident. You probably heard about it. It was on the news and in the papers. She was going to Richmond for a NASCAR race and she got hit by a tractor trailer as she was pulling onto 64.”

“I’m so sorry…”

“She had a little daughter too.”

“Oh no! That’s so sad!”

“Her husband’s fighting it out with insurance, trying to get them to pay. They want him to take a settlement, but he’s just trying to take care of his daughter. At least make sure she can go to college.”

“How old is the little girl?”

“She’s eight.”

“They should pay! Especially when there’s a child to raise.”

“Yeah, my daughter was a stay-at-home mother. Her husband’s doing the best he can. He works nights in a factory in Waynesboro. My other daughter stays with the little girl until midnight, and her daddy’s home with her during the day before he has to go to work.”

“It’s so good to have siblings.”

He nodded, “Yeah, it’s good to have people around you who can help out. I took care of her for a couple weeks too. She ’bout near drove me crazy.”

I laughed, but he looked me straight in the eye and said with emphasis, “I’m dead serious. She ’bout near drove me crazy. One day she set there on my lap and looked up at me and said ‘I miss my mama.’ I don’t know how much she really understands about what happened, you know? I asked her, ‘Do you know where your mama is?’ She said, ‘Yeah! My mama’s on vacation!’ Then when I told her I had to go to the doctor, she asked me, ‘Are you going on vacation too?'”

We both laughed ruefully and then I was called for my appointment. The man extended his hand to me. As we shook hands, he wished me luck. I wished him the same.

Nothing really changed. The problems I began with that morning did not go away. The man is facing a frightening diagnosis. His granddaughter is still missing her mama. But in the midst of suffering and pain, there was an unexpected moment of human connection and understanding. We were no longer strangers, but fellow travelers. For me, it was exactly the grace I needed that morning.

Easter Weekend

We played outside…

And discovered a sweet surprise in our bluebird box:

It would be impossible to improve upon those adorable little eggs, but we dyed a set of ceramic ones:

We helped “flower” a bare cross covered with wire between Easter services:

You’re never too old for an Easter Egg hunt!

My husband and his new friend…

My friend Victoria came to spend the night with us. I made a salad with the carrot flowers my mom taught me how to make:

After dinner we chatted while my friend worked on some teaching projects:

She brought me some beautiful eggs dyed with natural plant dyes:

And shared some photos of the process:

Spring Sprang Sprung

The tulip magnolias are taking center stage around Charlottesville these days…They are almost cartoonish in their preposterous ebullience. In the blink of an eye they will be gone and it will be a whole year before we once again witness their improbable splendor.

IMG_8361IMG_8363IMG_8366At our new house, we are closely watching the flowers, trees, and shrubs come to life. There have been happy discoveries like this quince:


I can’t wait to see it in full bloom. And this redbud will be a sight to behold in a week or two:


There have been bitter disappointments…


I don’t love yellow flowers and I really hate forsythia. I wasn’t sure what this thicket of shrubs was going to turn out to be until those tell-tale egg-yolk yellow blooms started coming out. At work today I somehow convinced myself that there were only three or four manageable shrubs that I could easily chop down and uproot. In my foolish optimism, I actually debated whether to use a pair of scissors (HA!) or a small pair of clippers to get rid of them. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot more than either of those to tackle this mess. I’m pretty sure there’s no way this is going to end well.

On a more positive note, I planted some of my favorite flowers this evening. A peony, Brunnera macrophylla, some Virginia bluebells, a Philadelphus, and minuscule, practically microscopic lilacs:

Whenever I plant lifeless sticks, corms, roots, and seeds in the mud, I remember that gardening is an act of faith and hope for the future. It’s participating in a miraculous rite of resurrection.

Yesterday, my daughter and I planted the packet of seeds we got at my friend’s Celebration of Life. I’m not sure what the flowers are, but I know that when they bloom they will remind us that life goes on and that we can plant beauty with our hands and our hearts.



Weekend Snapshots 36


For some reason I hadn’t realized I didn’t have to work on Friday. When I was reminded of the fact that it was UVA’s “Spring Break Day,” it was like a gift that fell out of the sky and right into my lap.

My friend and I met for breakfast at Bluegrass Grill & Bakery. Afterward, we popped into Paradox Pastry right next door. I stashed a pain au chocolat  in my purse, and had it later for an extra-decadent lunch for my extra-bonus day.


I went to all my favorite spots on the Downtown Mall.

Roxie Daisy:

IMG_5075 …always has beautiful, and unusual things. Sometimes I have no idea what these things are, but don’t they look like they would enhance the quality of one’s life somehow?

Caspari is always beautifully styled too:

IMG_5080…but the real reason I go there is to admire the zebra finches. I love that their cage is always lined with pretty wrapping paper:

IMG_5081One couldn’t really consider a pain au chocolat a proper lunch. So I made a pit stop at Timberlake’s Drug Store for a vanilla milkshake to round it off! IMG_5085 O’Suzannah is another favorite:

IMG_5082 (1)

I can’t sew a stitch, but for some reason, I love to wander through the color coded rooms at the Second Yard, a fabric store in a creaky old house on Market Street. You can buy furniture and home decor there too:

I still had time before it was time to pick up my daughter from school, so I stopped off at Ivy Nursery. It’s always a pleasure to see the gorgeous displays there:

IMG_5097In the greenhouse there are always friendly women chatting with each other in Spanish as they create lovely arrangements:

IMG_5104Even the pot display is pretty:

IMG_5098I got some plants to fill out the urns we finally transported from our old house to our new house a couple weekends ago:

And a few more, just because I was helpless to resist their charms:

The boys couldn’t stop picking at the pot full of lettuces I brought home. They popped the leaves straight into their mouths!

IMG_5111We capped off the day with our new favorite evening pastime – a game of badminton, using our fence as a net:


I love the pace of the game – the shuttlecock travels so slowly, I could take photos and return the volley!



My son has been doing rocketry after school. On Saturday we drove a couple of hours to Great Meadow Park in Fauquier County, Virginia to watch his team test the rockets they’ve been working on for months:

IMG_5138 (1)IMG_8298IMG_8275IMG_8308IMG_8329IMG_8316All three flights were clean and the payload of two (raw)! eggs remained undamaged!

That night my daughter followed an online play by play of the UVA/UNC game. I had no interest in the game. My entertainment was watching her reactions:

IMG_8343IMG_8344IMG_8353Yup. Our guys lost.


The next morning my very tall ten-year-old daughter wore my dress to church. We can wear the same clothes, but I’m still a little bit taller than her…when she’s not standing on her tippy toes! IMG_5144