Monday, November 17, 2008

Fall into Winter

Pine Needles Lane

November 17

We woke up to a dusting of snow yesterday morning. It always snows here at least a little bit (and sometimes a lot) before Thanksgiving. John is currently in Kansas City judging the American Royal and I'm in Lexington trying to stay warm. The recent memories of warm desert sun and light weight cotton clothing are...torturing me! I'm not much of a cold weather person anymore. Having lived in the mountains in Oregon (which are gorgeous) where the weather can dip into the subzero zone during the winter left me with a new natural instinct. Like the birds I want to fly south at the first hint of winter chill.

On our walking path

When we got home we were greeted with 70 plus degree days, bright sunshine and beautiful fall foliage. I immediately resumed my three mile a day walks around the neighborhood. We live in a pretty development of brick and stone and it is covered with paved pathways for the residents to walk or ride bikes on. Walking is my favorite form of exercise and around here it doubles as meditative and therapeutic as well giving me my nature fix. On our walks (usually with Ransom or Breezy) we see birds of all descriptions, cardinals (my favorites...there are none in Oregon), gold finches, Eastern blue jays which are spectacularly colored creatures and there are three red tailed hawks that hang around a certain area of the path hunting ground critters. There are rabbits and squirrels (Ransom being a squirrel dog by nature is particularly engaged in their activities), ground hogs (they are a kick!) and neighborhood cats and dogs. The paths are mostly tree covered so they are spectacular in the spring, summer and fall.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about our trip to South Africa last November/December. This is the time of year that we were getting ready to go. Our travel companions, Gene and Annalize van der Walt are natives of South Africa, living in Oregon now and are going back to South Africa for the Christmas holidays this year. I've been emailing with Annalize a little bit and we both are feeling the same strange and wonderful melancholy about our trip last year.

We traveled for three weeks and had the absolute trip of a lifetime. We arrived in Cape Town, spent some wonderful time there and exploring the Western Cape. It is spectacular. The only place that I could compare it to is the coastal areas of California. We traveled to Swellendam, a small farming community and stayed at a 19th century bed and breakfast that didn't have electric lights in the dining room (we ate a heavenly dinner and breakfast by candle light) and our rooms over looked a pasture full of sheep. I grew up on a farm in the country so we opened the windows and let the fresh air flow through the room. I slept like an old dog! It was an incredible time. We boarded The Blue Train in Cape Town and traveled on the luxury overnight train (much like the Orient Express) out of the Cape, across the Karoo, a very dry and beautiful landscape enjoying gourmet meals and wonderful South African wines. Our destination was Johannesburg where we boarded a flight to Kruger National Park in the northern part of South Africa. We spent a magical week in the bush at two different resorts getting up close and personal with elephants, rhino, giraffes, zebra, leopards, lions and cheetah (just to mention a few). I will never forget sitting in an open topped Land Rover while a breeding herd of elephants filtered around us like we weren't even there! Or sitting six feet from a cheetah while he finished his kill and then following him while he chirped for his hunting mate. There was so much to love about the trip, the country, the weather, the people, the food, the accommodations and just the experience of being that close to nature was incredible. And to share it with good friends made it all the more special. If I live to be 100 the images, scents and sounds will never leave me.

Sunrise in the bush
Photo taken from our Land Rover
When we flew out of Kruger on a tiny little gnat of a plane (that I was positively terrified of!) my fear of crashing melted away when I looked out the window at the expanse that our guide referred to as "de boosh" and felt a new and wonderful connection to the continent of our origin. I said that I planned to go back and do it again but I'm not sure now that I would. I don't think that we could duplicate the sheer perfection of our experience there. Something tells me that I have imprinted those experiences in a most perfect way and I don't want to change that. So maybe our next big adventure will be to Australia to see the Outback or to Peru to see Machu Picchu, two of the places on my list of things to experience before I leave the planet. Time will tell!

In the mean time we will be gallivanting around our own beautiful country in Mary. We will be in Florida after Thanksgiving with Breezy and Ransom. I'll keep you posted on our travel plans from there. We wish everyone very happy holidays and a healthy and wonderful new year!!

Turkey Hunt