2016 was a really, really crappy year for a lot of reasons. However, one area where it wasn’t so crappy was for kayaking. I visited lots of venues and got in over 200 miles of paddling. Not too shabby, considering there was lots to conspire to keep me off the water this year.
One of my favorite services is the Festival of Lessons and Carols. To me it doesn’t seem like Christmas until I have attended at least one service. I have an academic fascination with carols, and I love traditional settings, as well as seeing the way composers and arrangers have brought new life to these ancient texts. This weekend I was privileged to participate in two services in two different settings. This time, though there were some fascinating twists to the traditional service.
Yesterday I completed one more trip around old Sol. Yep, it was my birthday. My gift this year was an Amazon Echo Dot, one of the new home A. I. units. I’d actually been playing with the system for a couple of weeks. I thought I’d take some time to share my thoughts on this, and its competitor (sort of), Siri.
Just because it’s December doesn’t mean that we stop paddling. Heck, for this particular trip we even went swimming, but that’s getting ahead of things a bit. Fellow explorer, and now fellow paddler Mark Elbrecht proposed a trip out to Andersonville Island to see if we could spot the ruins that everyone says are there. Bennie Waddell had just gotten a new kayak, and I lacked only 6 miles to push me over the 200 mark for the year. Of course, agreed to come along. Turned out to be a great trip with unexpected finds and unexpected excitement. But, I guess the word “unexpected” is redundant. Regardless…
Closing out the various properties that belonged to my parents has meant going through boxes and boxes of things we’ve discovered in attics, closets, the garage, and anywhere else someone might hide a box of junk. Most of it is just that – the sort of stuff you save because you think you have to. Some of it looks like trash, but can contain some real nuggets of insight. While probably meaningless to anyone else, to us these bits of paper have revealed another side of our parents, including concerns and other thoughts often unbeknownst to the children at the time. Even though Mom’s been gone for two years now and Dad for five, it’s been like getting to know them and at the same time mourning them all over again. The process has been fascinating, and I thought I’d share some of the discoveries we made while sifting through the ephemera of their lives.
This past Tuesday night my Aunt Grace Ellenberg passed away. She was 95. The older sister of my late mother, she led a long, amazing life of adventure that defied the expectations set for a young farm girl from Ninety Six, South Carolina. Grace was a teacher and world traveler, a complex person with a profound Christian faith coupled with a keen intellect and desire to learn.
Earlier this week I learned of the passing of C. T. “Tommy” Sublett, aka “Sub.” Sub taught US history at Laurens District 55 High School, in a career that spanned 42 years. Not only was I a student, but he taught several of my siblings and my nephew. He died the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, just shy of his 76th birthday.
This has been a difficult Thanksgiving weekend, but not without things for which I’ve been thankful. One of those has been the ability to escape, even if just for a bit. The pattern has been for me to get in a bit of paddling either at sunrise or in the morning. Either Laura or Amy would head over to Atlantic Healthcare by 9:00 to get their mom up for the day, and I would join them there later (with a banjo on my knee, to quote the old song.) I had to limit these escapes, though. A couple of times I would get some distance from the house, check in with Laura to find her in the midst of dealing with a crisis, then find myself paddling pretty quickly straight back to come assist where I can. In those situations I found myself hitting a zen state, where I become one with the kayak, paddling as quickly and efficiently as possibly to get to my destination..
Last winter we discovered that Laura’s mom responds well to my banjo playing. Her memory returns and she claps along. I’ve started bringing it every time we visit, and despite my limited skills she seems to like it. This Thanksgiving has been very difficult, with Mrs. Wright battling infections as well as Alzheimer’s While the banjo hasn’t worked miracles, it has brought some relief. More importantly, I’ve discovered that this therapy isn’t limited to Mrs. Wright.