Machu Picchu, High in the Sky and Close to the Clouds

Approaching the realm of the condor
I ascend stairs of stone

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Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu standing near the "Guard House"
Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu standing near the “Guard House”

Machu Picchu

Approaching the realm of the condor

I ascend stairs of stone

Deep breaths expand my lungs and mind

Transported by magnificence

I imagine the puma stalking his prey without fear.

Built without wheels or written words

Knowledge kept alive through textiles and storytelling

Knots of rope tabulating the harvest

I count the steps and bravely climb, afraid to fall.

Touching the clouds

I feel the labor of many hands

Pushing, pulling, shifting the weight and burden

Of boulders, the mountain’s power

The secrets of Mother Earth pressing beneath my feet

I stand amazed.

————Nadja Maril  1/25/2015

September Has Come and Gone – Excerpts from Editor’s Letter

There was a family, the Greens, that lived in our neighborhood, when I was a child, who had a daughter my age named Rachel. I liked to go to their house because it was very different from my own.  Mrs. Green was a stay-at-home mom, unlike my own mother who was often preoccupied with her work.   She baked her own bread and cookies, sometimes allowing us to assist. I remember sitting around their dining room table with Rachel and her younger brother Michael, and some other children who lived nearby, cutting out scraps of colored paper and magazines to make collages.  Mrs. Green always had a new craft project to keep us busy and an unending supply of paste, scissors, and colored paper.

No one could visit their house if they had the slightest sign of a sniffle. I remember being turned away at the door more than once because I coughed or had a runny nose and feeling very disappointed.  But then I didn’t know that Michael had been born with a birth defect to his heart, which at that time could not be surgically repaired until he reached the age of 12.  His parents lived in fear that if he were to get a cold that developed into influenza or pneumonia, he might not recover. No wonder I never saw him playing outside in the snow.

How many people do we know, or meet each day of our lives, that have chronic illnesses or are fighting a deadly disease?  How fearful Rachel’s mother must have been, worrying all those years about her son. No wonder she thought up all those projects to keep her children busy, she wanted to keep them in the house and to enter the outside world as little as possible.

Unless our neighbors, friends, and colleagues tell us about their struggles and challenges, we assume they are fine.  There isn’t always an ultra short haircut, crutches, or an oxygen tank to provide us with clues that everything is not okay.  While many people seem to relish sharing the details of their doctor’s visits and various surgeries, others prefer keeping that information private. Talking about painful experiences often reopens old emotional wounds.

It doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that good health is a gift, something to be honored and treasured. So it’s important to enjoy each and every day as it arrives. Years later I learned my childhood neighbor did have his long awaited surgery, it was successful and today he lives a full and productive life.

The September print issue of Chesapeake Taste Magazine had the theme, “Here’s to your health” and  we packed it full of stories about people living life to the fullest—from legendary  saxophone player Del Pushert still going strong performing at age 78 to our contributing writer Vicki Meade learning how to pole dance. While the print copies are pretty much gone, you can still read it all online by visiting http://www.Chesapeaketaste.com.  You can also stay in touch with all things Annapolis by reading my blog Annapolis Taste. Thanks for reading.

Sweet and Simple Wedding

Weddings don’t always have to be extravagant affairs. A wedding is really about celebrating a lifelong commitment to one another and the celebration is about people enjoying each others’ company.

A few weeks ago I went to San Diego County to attend the wedding of my nephew Ben Crilly, who is a marine currently stationed at Camp Pendleton. Accompanying me on the trip was husband Peter Crilly, son Christopher and his girlfriend Laura. Going out to California gave us the opportunity to see daughter Alex, who took the train down from San Luis Obispo to San Diego to meet us. We had a great time staying in La Jolla, revisiting some to the sights we had the pleasure of seeing  San Diego during Thanksgiving plus making new memories.

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I didn’t know what to expect, as far as the wedding we were attending but I did know I liked the handmade invitation and the fact that we didn’t need to be super dressed up.  Shown in this photo of the invitation are the party favors given as we left– handmade pouches of wildflower seeds. But I’m getting ahead of myself.The wedding was held at the bride’s grandmother’s house, in the backyard. The sun was shining and there was a lovely spreading Ficus Tree on the hill. On the tree were hanging mason jars and white Christmas lights for when it got dark.  To set the stage for the ceremony were a pair of French Doors and jars of baby breath and purple flowers. The colors of the wedding were white and purple. The brides maids word short purple satin dresses and the table covers for dinner were purple as well. I confess I didn’t take enough pictures to show everything, because I was having too much fun.

There was no alcohol served. Emma, the bride is under 21, so the couple toasted one another with pink lemonade.  The bride and groom both looked radiant as they made their ways around to the tables set up after the ceremony to say hello to everyone. A dance floor was set up on the ground, like the floors you see at a hotel, and it was placed up on the hill under the tree. A deejay down below spun tunes after dinner, which was two choices of pasta served buffet style.  The beautiful tiered cake was chocolate with vanilla frosting (my favorite!). Instead of a guest book, we were all asked to write something around the edges of a canvas which had the couple’s picture in the center and as the couple got ready to depart in their “just married car” we were given sparklers. Assembled in the driveway, we held up our lit sparklers and the bride and groom walked underneath as we said good luck and congratulations. It was a lovely event. Seen in the photos with the bride, groom, and Peter is his brother Paul, and nephew Nate (Ben’s younger brother who was one of the groomsmen).

Remembering Diane Fien Kelly

We all know at least one really nice person, the kind of person who always thinks the best of everyone they meet and who always seems to think of the right things to say at the right time.

Last night the world lost one of the nicest people I’ve had the privilege to call my friend— Diane Fien Kelly. She waged a valiant battle against a virulent form of cancer and now her pain is over, but we who knew her are left with a large hole in our hearts.

Diane was a member of my book club, which I often write about. She will be sorely missed.  A supporting player, she may not have always read everyone’s book selection, but was always asking for everyone’s recipes.(One of these days we probably should create a cookbook). Diane liked to laugh and her smile would light up her face.  She was always the person in the room who wanted to listen to what everyone else had to say, rather than taking center stage. She always made you feel good about any project you told her about, offering supportive advice. In her professional career she worked in Special Education, which fit right in with her desire to help others who needed extra attention and understanding.

Even while undergoing chemo and radiation treatments, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she was still anxious to help others. Last fall while I was recovering from my broken back, Diane came to see me with a home cooked dinner and accompanied me on a walk around my neighborhood— apologizing that she didn’t have more time to spend with me. Who was helping who? As recently as two weeks ago, she still focused her strength on reaching out to friends sending thank you notes. I am inspired by her kindness.

We never got a chance to work out at the gym together. (I kept threatening to take her to my pilates class.) Fate sometime has a way of intervening. But the memory of Diane is very much alive in my mind and in her spirit I will remember her with a renewed dedication to fully appreciate every day as a gift and to learn by her example of small and large kindnesses.

Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive and Well in Cuba

Cuba might well be a socialist country, but during our  February visit we met plenty of entrepreneurs who found ways of making a little extra money on the side. Whether they report their earning to the government or not, I’m not certain.  But they found many tourists eager to part with their “convertible pesos” the monetary unit used when visitors convert their currency to Cuban currency.

Our first full day in the City of Havana, we were lead on a walking tour of the older section of the city. Gathered around two adorable Dachund hounds was a crowd of people cheering and clapping as the dogs made noises approximating the sound of speech. But that was not all. After the crowd dispersed, the owner of the dogs spied my husband Peter and posed him next to one of the dogs after learning we were Americans. First the dog kissed and greeted him. Then when he placed and American dollar bill in Peter’s hand and pointed a plastic gun the dog snarled and bared his teeth.  Of course he received a generous tip for this entertainment, from Peter’s wallet as well as several other bystanders.

Just a few yards away , women in colorful 19th century costume carrying baskets of flowers and fruit, beckoned Peter to pose with them for a kiss. (It must have been that red shirt he was wearing)  I took a few photos and when Peter pulled out one peso to give them they firmly told him that he must give them two pesos, because after all there were two of them. (Well it did make a nice picture)

A few blocks away were street artists painted a solid color to resemble statues, moving in various poses. They too wanted a donation for their performance.  Women guards inside the various museums would embroider and crotchet while “on duty” and would offer their wares on the side, while others would set up stands near churches and other tourists attractions to sell handmade dolls and linens.  In the city of Trinidad, an old man sat on a street corner with a rooster perched on his head. For a price, he too would pose for a picture.

These are just a few examples, but yes, regardless of the governmental structure, it just goes to show you that there is creative capitalism wherever you travel!

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Miniature Indonesia in Jakarta; Virtual Passport

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Monday in Annapolis, Maryland for me is a day full of meetings and a day that focuses on organizing my tasks for the week. Monday in Jakarta, Indonesia (I learned last month), is often a day to take a break, when many of the important museums and monuments in the city are closed.
So while our guide took a very nice photograph of us ( my husband Peter, daughter Alex, and myself) in front of the National Musem, we could not get inside.
The day was hot, over 100 degrees, and after walking around the National Monument we followed our guide’s suggestion to make a visit to the “Indonesia in Miniature Park” aka Taman Mini located to the east of the city.
The park was not on the list that Justin put together for us to visit, while he went into work for the day. His colleagues and friends evidently do not think highly of it as a tourist attraction, but I would highly recommend it to any tourist paying a visit to Jakarta, particularly if you do not have time to visit the five major islands in this nation comprised of over 17000 islands. That’s right…over 17,000 islands with a diverse number of languages and cultures.
The park is so large, you need an entire day (which we did not have by the time we arrived there at noon) and while you can drive around in a car, it is better to walk or rent a bicycle. We rented bicycles.
Each pavillion represents a different province, complete with architectural examples, native, costumes, temples, and even live performances at various times throughout the day. Although Borneo was not on our list, of places to visit this time around, we did get to see examples of thatched roof huts and observe a tribesman in native attire carving wood that would eventually be for sale in their gift shop.

While we did not have time to visit all the pavillions, we were able to enter a few of the buildilngs including various houses that represented the architecture of the different islands and cultures. We climbed the ladders to enter a traditional, or adat-style, Batak houses– the type built in parts of northern Samatra. These homes can be large enough to house as many as a dozen families. They have distinctive saddle-backed, twin-peaked roof made from a special palm fibre and they are commonly anchored by long poles.
In the center of the park is a large lake. The park also has
its own orchid garden in which hundreds of Indonesian orchid varieties are grown along with a bird park with a walk-in aviary, a fauna museum.
Due to the extreme heat and our limited time, we couldn’t see everything but we were happy that Miniature Indonesia is open on Mondays.