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Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

      When we were in Oia on the Greek island of Santorini last month, we were told that when we walked up the main street  and came to a turn it didn’t matter which way we went, since both streets would take us right back down to where we started.  Along the way, I was charmed by the narrow cobblestone streets and colorful small shops.  No two buildings were exactly alike, yet all were whitewashed and trimmed for the most part in blue.  The edges of the buildings were rounded, and there were many domed churches.  The side streets to our left led down to a view of the sea.  As we made our upward climb, there were fewer, then no shops, and no tourists.  Thinking we had somehow lost our way, we turned back to see where we had been.  That was when we saw a beautiful view of the town and sea below us—a collage of white buildings trimmed in blue and bits of red, backed by blue sea surrounded by black volcanic mountains.cruise-274

     My high school reunion will take place this summer, and some of our former classmates have put together a website for all 500+ of us to get in touch before the actual evening at the Harbor Walk Chancery in Racine, Wisconsin.  I have enjoyed viewing the profiles and current pictures of kids with whom I once walked the halls of Park High School.  The stories of their lives, the quirky and the mundane, the unpredictable and the ordinary, are fascinating to me, as I compare them with the behavior of the young people I once knew.

Naturally, I feel obligated to contribute my own story.  Summarizing my life was not difficult.  However, coming up with memories of high school that would be of interest to anyone else was more challenging.  Perhaps not surprisingly, my memories are more often of teachers and classes than of extracurricular activities.  I had a job while in high school, and after I worked 17 hours a week, I suppose most of my time outside of school on weekdays was spent doing homework.

One of my best teachers did not assign homework, but I gained lifelong wisdom and enjoyment from his teaching.  Mr. Saetveit was an outstanding musician.  I well remember how he directed the a capella choir with micro-movements of a Chinese chopstick.  A balding, rather meek man, he never had to raise his voice to get our attention.  His directing and musical skills earned our respect and compliance to his slightest suggestion.

The class was not without humor and fun times.  Although most of our repertoire was classical religious music, we sang some crazy things, too.  There was one piece that had only two words—ding and dong.  In fact, I think there were two songs that began with the word ding.  I was the pitch piper for the alto section.  Once I deliberately quietly hummed the wrong song before we began and the altos were bewildered (and embarrassed) when everyone else began singing the other one.

I was in Mr. Saetveit’s class when we learned of Kennedy’s death.  We had a concert coming up, so he made us practice on the risers, even though some of the girls were crying and one even fainted.  The fact that he made us go on with our duties is a lesson that has stuck with me through other times when I might think life as I know it has ended.

I have not thought much about Eilef Saetveit in a long time.  It’s good to look to the past.  There is much unexpected beauty and wisdom to be found there.


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Thames Barrier


            Yesterday Ted, Chad, Becca, and I went to a craft fair, only to learn we arrived a week late.  It was my fault.  During the forty-mile ride there, Becca had misgivings about the date because we didn’t encounter the expected traffic.  When we arrived and saw no crowds and smelled no food, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I would hear about this again.  My reputation for accuracy of dates has been seriously damaged.

            I have no doubt the day will live in infamy.  After all, one of us has never lived down the fact that in  the summer of 1990 we drove all the way to Nags Head, NC, only to learn that our reservations were for the following week.  Then there was the incident in London, where one or two of us (not me—I’d never heard of it!) had a burning desire to see the Thames Barrier.  We took the tube to the closest stop, then walked, and walked, and walked.  We never found it.  Also, we will never forget the incident in Las Vegas when the same person responsible for the Nags Head fiasco thought it would be interesting to walk, rather than take a cab, to the Rio to see the Penn and Teller show for which we had tickets.  It almost turned out to be a case of ‘you can’t get there from here’—at least not on foot.  As these ordeals were being remembered at lunch today, Chad recalled the time a certain person (also responsible for the Barrier debacle) thought it would be interesting to go over the Paw Paw tunnel on the C & O bike trail, rather than through it.  (Today, she admits the tunnel scared her.)  The trail would have been difficult unencumbered, but on bikes, it was nearly impossible for a woman in her 50s.  The only thing that kept me from complete collapse was my unwillingness to let my daughter’s boyfriend see me crumple under pressure.

            I would like to point out that this is the first time I have had to take responsibility for our ill-advised escapades.  Becca insists this is because she and Ted are the ones who plan our excursions, but I’m not so sure.

            In all honesty, I also have to say that the outcomes have not been all bad.  I can’t think of anything positive about the Las Vegas walk except that we survived and we arrived in time for the show.  However, on that evening in Nags Head we had a delicious seafood dinner, and Paul, on his temporary license at the time, acquired a lot of driving experience in a single day.  In London, we saw parts of the Thames that tourists—and probably most Londoners—never see, and we met a friendly cab driver who tried to help us out.  Our rugged mountain climb netted me the respect of my future son-in-law.  And yesterday’s drive provided a spectacular display of fall foliage along the way.  We had a good time eating at a local grill and browsing in the town’s charming shops before driving home, too. 

            Best of all, we remain friends and can laugh at each other’s foibles.

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I am a Christian, a mother and grandmother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a widow, a friend. . .  My life is first of all defined by relationships–to God, to my family, to my students, to my friends. Of course, I am many other things: a reader, an e-mail writer, a piano player, and a somewhat reluctant traveler, for example.  And now I am a blogger.  I’m not sure why, except it seems to be a logical next step for someone addicted to e-mail.