Wandering & Wondering

Travel, inside my head and real.

TravelPod ending!

A scorecard of our world travels through 2010, via TravelPod

This past week, I received an email that TravelPod would be closing and that we should download and archive our travel blog. I had been thinking about TravelPod only a few days before, trying to remember when was the last time I’d added an entry. Turns out, I got derailed in Havana, in 2010, but I did begin blogging on this WordPress site sometime in 2012-ish.

So, now…TravelPod ending. Wow. I was first introduced to TravelPod by my friends Amy and Mark. Their honeymoon was a six month trip around the world in 2004. They posted entries from all over the place. And from our hometown–to where we’d returned after 16 years away–we followed along, reading with both awe and envy. Our lives had gone a bit–let’s just say, “off road”. Or maybe it’s more descriptive to say that we drove our life down a very familiar street…hoping to see the old views, but now it was distorted, faded, colors running and surreal. We adjusted, adjusted again, and eventually returned to the highway that is Chicago. Yet, we have had so many knocks and bumps in the past 5 years that today, it feels as if we must be on a bombed out highway…a journey that has all of the rockiness, but none of the joyful thrill and exhilaration of a true off-the-roadmap travel experience. TravelPod reminds me of that.

It remembers me. It reminds me. It calls me. That world “scorecard” is still there. And I need to pull out the wish list roadmap and get to it! And I need to write! There are many journeys we take that aren’t on a map.

In the meantime, I’m happy to say that all of the old TravelPod entries are coming to live here. In fact, they are already here in pretty raw form with bricks of copy. They need editing, and they need their photos, so stay tuned. But a big THANK YOU to TravelPod for setting up an easy downloadable archive for moving to WordPress. Our first live blog was to Antarctica in 2007. I wrote from a ship tossing across the Drake Passage. Reading it reminds me of the night I sat in our little cabin writing and watching our things swing, sway and tumble as the waves rocked and rolled us. I get chill bumps–and a little seasick again–just remembering that sensation and the *THRILL* of being at the end of the world.  There were other “live” blogs too–though none quite like that. Later, I also went backwards into time and added some journal entries from previous trips. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to clean up all the imported entries. And I’ll be daydreaming about the next “TravelPod” entry!

Share Button

Details make patterns

Details make patterns.  Choices make habits.  Imagining makes art.  Believing makes seeing.

It’s been a while since I went out to wander and photograph just for the sake of wandering and photographing.  It felt good:  stretching my legs, stretching my imagination and shaking off this long strange summer.  This was the weekend at Open House Chicago 2016.

Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets.  The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it.  Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.

Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral.  Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.

Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories  in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.

Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, in the morning shadow of the Hancock.  And in this church, at long last we get to go upstairs to the balcony…and there’s a pipe organ, gentle at first and then lighting up the guests with a loud pounce.

The 5th place was an art house in an old mansion.  Giant windows, rimmed in dark wood.  Pocket doors and white marble fireplaces in every room.  Studios for rent and live models seven days a week.  An open studio on the 3rd floor smelled of oil paint as I rounded the final set of stairs up.  The old floors were for dancing when this was a home and this level housed a ballroom. Now the wood floors showed wear from drops of paint as artists made their art.  At this moment, they were sans model, but they worked as if she were still there.  An imaginary model.  Cross breezes fluffed papers from the transom windows along the floor where the band used to sit.

The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles, and a working mail chute for the 14-story building.  This building and the one across the street, on the north side of Monroe at Michigan stand like sentinels, equal sized gate posts, greeting traffic entering Chicago on what used to be the main thoroughfare.

The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple.  The highest place of worship above street level.  Twenty two floors via elevator, then A through E floors via a cozy elevator, then 31 steps up to this tiny little Sky Chapel.  Stained glass windows line the room and limit views of the sky and the surrounding city.  The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.

Bell Tower details St. James Episcopal Cathedral
Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets. The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it. Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.
Holy Name Cathedral galeros
Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral. Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.
Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center stained glass windows
Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.


Fourth Presbyterian Church ivy
Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
Fourth Presbyterian Church Michigan Avenue
The pipe organ rings out at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
Marble fireplace detail Palette & Chisel
Marble fireplace mantel detail from Palette & Chisel.


palette & chisel live model art studio
Palette & Chisel artists taking a break in the 3rd floor ballroom studio
palette and chisel chicago model art studio
Palette & Chisel: Imagination.
Monroe Building Chicago rook wood tiles
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles. Muted earth tones in the foyer, just waiting to wow you when you go through those doors.
The Monroe Building Rookwood details make patterns
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles.
The Chapel in the Sky Chicago Temple
The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple. The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.
Stenciling on ceiling of Chicago Temple
Chicago Temple ceiling stenciling.
Share Button

The forest and the trees

You know the saying, “she can’t see the forest for the trees”?  It is a derogatory phrase…like when someone is said to “miss the big picture” or “bogs down in details”.

I’ve had forests and trees on my mind a lot in the past few months…feeling something like guilt or shame or frustration for the hours wasted on doing the “little” things.  I wonder some times if I’ve lost the trail.

But on this cool, rainy, September early morning, I woke up with some satisfying clarity on the positive side of that saying.

Life is a whole forest.  It is also just one tree.  Each tree.  Each day.  I don’t know how big the forest is, or when I will walk out of it.  So, I’m going to enjoy my walk through the trees, appreciating the sun and the shade, the rain and the wind, the sounds and the silence, and give my attention to one tree at a time.

A funny thing seems to happen when I consider that one tree long enough…I perceive the pattern around it.  And I find comfort in that.

Enjoy your walk.

X marks the spot, a vine crisscrosses a tree at Radnor Lake, Nashville
A vine crisscrosses a tree. April 2015 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee.


Ridges of Bark on a Tree at Radnor Lake in Nashville
The trees and vines begin to bloom, Spring 2015 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.


Vine entwines tree Radnor Lake Nashville
A vine entwines a tree at Radnor Lake, Nashville, TN. Spring 2015.


Quiet trees Radnor Lake Nashville
On this rainy Spring day in April 2015, we walked amid the trees. Absorbing. Radnor Lake, Nashville, TN.
Share Button

Dormant and Waiting

Have you ever been to an amusement park in winter…when it’s closed, quiet and waiting, and kind of creepy (but in that exhilarating, surreal kind of way)?

Except for missing out on the rides and the neon lights, I think this may have been the best way for me to first see Coney Island back in 2012.  I liked the emptiness of it…like I had it all to myself.  My friend Jill and I took our time walking through the park that day.  Soaked up all the carnival colors.  Studied the signs.  Played with the angles.

I thought of Coney Island as hibernating…dreaming about the coming summer’s smiling crowds, but also regrouping, getting fresh paint, tightening the bolts.  As I stay close to my Chicago radiators this winter, I’m passing through old photos, old memories and looking to the future.  I want to see Coney Island again when it’s awake, when it’s spring.  I want to ride the rides, shoot the neon, bump elbows with the crowds, and to see how the park survived Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

So, rest up Coney Island.  I’m putting you on the list, again.  Coney Island, and also the Redwoods, and Cuba, and Ireland, and the Badlands, and New Orleans, and Nova Scotia, and Australia, and, and, and…

Arcade, ferris wheel, coney island, new york
The Wonder Wheel waits for summer at the Coney Island arcade
Coney Island, arcade, game, NY
Lauren’s seat at the Kentucky Derby, Coney Island arcade, NY
dime, toss, sign, game, Coney Island, NY
Dime Toss game sign at Coney Island, New York
toss, dime, sign
Toss a Dime, game signage at Coney Island, NY
Coney Island, roller coaster, lights, Cyclone
Detail of the Cyclone Roller coaster sign and lights.
roller coaster, cyclone, Coney Island, Amusement park
The Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, New York.
Hamburger boy
Hey Get It Get It! I’m supposed to want it more, once I see the sign…
Share Button



It’s been a hard year.  We’ve lost a number of family members and dear friends.  Had job changes.  Experienced new aches and pains.  Dealt with little annoyances like losing an iPad and a coat (how does that happen??  Are our minds slipping?!)  And we’ve suffered through continuing bouts of ennui and this great restlessness.  A combination of things that leaves our hearts hurting, our thoughts scattered and worried, our confidence tested, and our energy exhausted.

We wonder, how many more Christmases will we have?  How many more summers?  How many more times will I get to hug this person–or hear that story again–or ask those questions?  How many more times can I say “next time, we’ll do that” –before there is no “next time”?  So, this Christmas, when I went home to Nashville to see my Mom and Dad, I also made plans to see some extended family–people I love, and used to spend more time with, but who I don’t have a lot of chances to see on quick visits home from Chicago.  It was good.  We shared laughter, stories, meals.  I need more of this.  And I have made a promise to myself to do more of it in 2015, and make it count.

I also spent a little time driving around Nashville…visiting some places I love…places that are scratched into my memory.  Former homes, old neighborhoods, favorite streets and parks.  Maybe I only spent a little time there–or maybe a lot.  But these places remain in my heart.  And while I can see them –any day– when I close my eyes, I wanted to touch them again.  It was good.  This too, I need more of.

Things change.  Buildings get knocked down.  Trees get cut down.  We change.  People move in and out of our lives.  It hurts sometimes.  And while we can’t always see them anymore, they live on in our memories.  And there is this magical kind of peace and grace in remembering those memories, and visiting those old places.

So, here’s to peace, and to a new year spent making good memories.  Happy New Year!

sledding hill
This is my old street and the neighborhood’s best sledding hill. When Nashville got snow, this hill was covered with kids and sleds. If you had good slick snow and a strong push off at the top of the hill, you could make it all the way to Valleywood.
This place will always keep a few pieces of my heart.  My precious grandmother passed away there.  Three dogs are buried in the backyard, along with two pet turtles, three goldfish, and a few wild birds.  Those two strong maples were plucked from the woods by my father and grandfather–planted in the little front yard of our other house and then moved to this yard as saplings.
Shelby Avenue old tree and old house
Roots and foundations on Shelby Avenue.
Pond by the Parthenon
Gone are the paddle boats and swans:  The Parthenon’s pond in Centennial Park
Centennial Park Swing
Centennial Park Swings:  These are the best swings in the world. It’s all in the footboard…
Elliston Place Restaurant Diner
Neon sign from the old fashioned soda shop on Elliston Place. Milkshakes and grilled cheese…yum.
Exit/In wild posting by Krispy Kreme
Exit/In brought the music to the locals. And in a town like Nashville–“special guests” could mean a Rolling Stone, a Beatle or Johnny Cash.
Train tracks over the Cumberland
My grandparents had tomato plants…lots of tomato plants in their tiny backyard. One summer, they came to this spot in Shelby Park every day to dig dirt–buckets of good dark river dirt.  We’d go home each day with 4-5 big buckets of Shelby Park dirt for those tomato plants in the trunk of their car.
Long Avenue dead ends into Shelby Park
I once flew in a red wagon down Long Avenue’s alley hill into Shelby Park–zooming with more speed than control–with my laughing and elderly Aunt Tiller.  “Don’t you take that baby down that hill Tiller!”, my grandmother yelled from the kitchen window.  “Wave at her,” my Aunt Tiller whispered in my ear as she kicked the wagon into motion.
Spring Hill Cemetery
One of the most peaceful places I know. The tree in Spring Hill beneath which my grandparents rest.
Fletcher's Shoes
Daddy’s shoe shop, closing early on a rainy Christmas Eve’s Eve:  No matter where I am, I think of him whenever I smell shoe leather—or wear my Converse with no arch support.
Sage dressing
“More sage!”:  says my step-dad Marvin every time we test Mama’s homemade dressing.
Christmas Eve
Bill Monroe sings, “Christmastime’s a comin’, and I know I’m going home”:  There is a special comfort in being at Mama’s house on Christmas Eve. The smell of dressing and vegetables cooking, the lights on the tree twinkling on the bows & ribbons below, and you know that after eating, you’ll sit in that room chattering for a few welcome hours.
Awaiting the holiday meal
Anticipation:  Setting the table with the holiday china and Mama’s place cards for the Christmas Eve feast.
kitchen bar with christmas tree and microwave
Later at Daddy’s house:  We sit at the kitchen bar and talk about old family photos, health, and those little Christmas trees Aunt Robbie made all those years ago.


Share Button

Traveling in Rural Tennessee

Abandoned Motel, Tennessee, rural roads
Pre-interstate, Nolensville Road was the main route from Nashville south to Georgia. Along the route are many empty little hotels.
Chimney, stone, cedar, tree, abandoned, rural road
Framed by cedars, an old chimney still stands on this old farm in Tennessee.
Keep Out sign, Hickory tree, rural Tennessee
The Keep Out tree.
See Rock City, barn, rural Tennessee
Years ago, Rock City figured out a way to advertise all over the rural South…paint “See Rock City” on as many barns as possible.
Estill Springs, Tennessee, rural roads
A lonely road in rural Tennessee.
Trash, bag, rural Tennessee
A black trash bag along the road in Estill Springs, TN…litter?  or a sign of roadside clean up?

Early one morning, two days after Thanksgiving, my best friend and I met to go on a photo jaunt.   When I’m home, it’s a tradition for us to meet early in the morning when the sun is coming and the mist is still fogging over the roads, and head off into the wilds of Tennessee.  We are Nashville-raised girls–so these old roads, falling down barns, abandoned buildings, lonely graveyards and remote train tracks draw us to them like birds to a nest.  We drive for a while, jabbering about our lives, and stopping every few miles for some shots of something that speaks to us.  Later, we stop in some little diner for a late breakfast before hightailing it back to town.  These scenes, these drives, these little traditions remind me of what matters in life….family and friends, and roads to be traveled.

Share Button

Three quiet October days in Telluride

Main Street, Telluride, Colorado
Main Street, Telluride, Colorado

Three quiet October days in Telluride.  The place holds a special place in my heart.

I first visited Telluride on a media trip in 1999, just a couple of weeks after my Grandmother passed away.  I was tired.  My heart hurt from crying.  And I ached to see her again, to talk to her some more…just a little more.   While the rest of the group skied, I spent time in solitude…staring at the mountains.  And in those moments, I found a peace that comforts me to this day.

So, when I realized that I’d be within a 6 hour drive of Telluride just a few days before my birthday, I decided to return.

The “6 hour drive” from Santa Fe turned into an 8 hour drive because I stopped so many times to admire the wide open spaces and the long winding roads through the pueblos and reservations of New Mexico .

Driving north from Santa Fe
Driving north from Santa Fe

I arrived in Mountain Village just before dark, threw my stuff in the room, and took the first of about a dozen gondola rides up and over the mountain into beautiful little Telluride.

I would spend only 3 nights there–waiting for the sun to rise and set on the mountain top, soaking up the sun on the streets of Telluride or my sweet little balcony, walking the side streets and trails with my camera, looking for the even numbered magpies, sketching and writing in the coffee shops, and savoring a little time in the spa.  Good days.

The Gondola into Telluride
The Gondola into Telluride
Make a Map:  Things to do in the coffee shop
Make a Map: Things to do in the coffee shop
The gondola goes from Mountain Village up and over the mountain to Telluride in about 15 magic minutes.
The gondola goes from Mountain Village up and over the mountain to Telluride in about 15 magic minutes.
On the Mountain
On the Mountain
Waiting for the sun to set on the mountain top...October 6, 2013.
Waiting for the sun to set on the mountain top…October 6, 2013.
Pre-dawn ride to the Mountain top…October 7, 2013
Sunrise…on Telluride’s Mountain…October 7, 2013

On my birthday, I was on the first gondola to the mountain top.  I walked across the ridge waiting for the sunrise, my boots crunching the frosted grass.  Three elk stopped about 50 feet in front of me.  I could see their breath clouds.  After a silent few minutes of mutual acknowledgement, they returned to grazing and I to walking.  I heard their antlers tapping together a few minutes later and turned to see two of them playing like puppies on the mountain side.  Just after sunrise, I called my mother and father from the mountain top.   I talked to several friends that day, had a massage, enjoyed some home-made ice cream and had a perfect little day.  And as I went back over the mountain the final time that evening in the quiet dark of my own gondola, I whispered a few things to my precious grandmother.

Telluride from the gondola in the deep quiet solitude of the mountainside
Telluride from the gondola in the deep quiet solitude of the mountainside.

I drove out of Telluride in the still pitch black morning…at one point a family of deer ran on the windy road alongside my car.  Ah, Telluride…I’ll be back!


Share Button

Six weeks in the Fall…68 hours in Seattle

Public Market Reflection
Public Market Reflection

I’m am woefully behind in posting some of the things I’ve been working on these past six weeks. But I can’t be too sorry as it has been an extraordinary time filled with little journeys. Two weeks ago today, I returned from my first visit to my 32nd state, Washington. Things that impressed me?

The low, dense fog that covered the city when we landed. I thought it was a cloud. But upon clearing it, we were seconds from the runway.

The neon in the Public Market!

The bright neon signs welcome early morning shoppers in the Public Market
Post Alley on the hill going down to the market and waterfront
Post Alley on the hill going down to the market and waterfront

The gum wall in an artsy/gummy alley. How exactly does this kind of thing get started and “go viral”?

The gum wall…yes, all of that is used chewing gum…

The Starbucks mother-ship…for my coffee-like blood, this was like mecca! Put this coffee with one of the chocolate croissants from Le Panier and a potato and cheese pastry from Piroshky Piroshky Bakery, and a bite of fresh made cheese from Beecher’s…and well, I could have stayed there all day.

The bar called Canon. Beautiful. Extraordinary light and atmosphere.

Canon Bar
Canon Bar

And last but not least? Where was that mountain?! The fog was thick for 3 days. I told friends that the only way I could possibly see that mountain was if I was standing on it. On the flight back home…I thought I had missed it, had sat on the wrong side of the plane…but lucky me! The plane did a U-turn and as soon as the wings leveled off…there it was! Mt. Rainier…massive, majestic!

Mt Rainier
Mt Rainier

Thank you Seattle!

Share Button

“Moscow to Havana” launches travel reverie

Flight to Havana, Cuba
Boarding a flight to Havana in December 2010.

Moscow to Havana!   The news hummed with “where is Edward Snowden?” this week.  He arrived in Russia from Hong Kong.  He supposedly bought a ticket Moscow to Havana, then never made the flight.  Maybe he is making his way incognito to Ecuador?  Or Venezuela?  Or will he live for awhile in the Moscow airport, perpetually in transit?  Whatever happens, these news nuggets launch me into travel reverie–thoughts of airports, of getting on planes,  of all the great spy movies where they skip seamlessly country-to-country.  I love travel…the tickets, and passport stamps, and visas…I get chill-bumps just imagining holding a plane ticket that reads  SVO – HAV.  I amuse myself with a vague thought of traveling one day from a Russian winter’s deep snow to a sultry Cuban night in the streets of Havana.  I have this dream that one day, I will go.  I will sell everything and go.  For a year, for two, maybe three.  Travel light.  Take my time.  Get to know the cities.  See the countrysides.  Meet the people. Stay long enough to recognize the accents, the light, the patterns of life…like how to order an espresso like a local in a Roman cafe, or where to find the right peso taxi line in Havana.   These thoughts make me tremble with anticipation.  There’s just something about travel.  The essence of life.

Share Button

Anticipation and distance

Last week, a thunderstorm crossed Chicago.  All that sunny day, we were warned about the imminent danger–about the derecho winds, the baseball-sized hail, the floods.  Finally, a lot later, the sky changed.  Clouds rolled in.  Lightning blinked, then connected in a long slow bolt, a twitching line to the ground that lasted long enough to watch it.  I stared at that bolt longer than any other in my life–electricity firing right there in front of me.  And then, there was a darkness and a stillness…as if the trees, the birds, the air itself held a breath, waiting for something to happen.  Time seemed to be suspended waiting, waiting, waiting for the energy of the storm, for the air to release and breath again, for a hard cleansing rain.  But only a little rain and the darkness became just the night.

Anticipation, unsatisfied.

I photographed that night.  Close.  I wanted to see the evidence of the energy in the little drops of rain, in the silence of the leaves.

Now, a week later, I am sitting here, listening to a gentle rain on the windows, and looking at the photos and I think…I was too close.  Sometimes I am too far away and there’s no drama, no details, no passion for the moment.  But being too close, there’s no discernible pattern, and no focus.  The moment passes, the magical energy of the storm fades, and the memories linger.

Lessons learned on anticipation and distance?  I can’t keep anticipation forever.  I need a little distance, a little space to see things clearly, to see the pattern.

But please storm, come back soon.  Very soon.

Waiting for a storm that never came
Waiting for a storm that never came



Share Button

To Travel is to Possess the World

“To Travel is to Possess the World”

It’s a Burton Holmes quote, said about his Travelogues over 100 years ago.  How I ache to go when I look through his book of hand-tinted slides from another time, another place…his many Grand Tours of the world followed by “magic lantern” tours of tales.  It was a different world back then.

Share Button

Back to Amsterdam

Back to Amsterdam

We took the train back to Amsterdam, again going through the track works and arriving late. We checked into room 11 (back at Seven Bridges Hotel) and had a big dinner at the steak place.

Pink Tulips Holland
Tulips at the market in Amsterdam

We took a train to Keukenhof one day to see the flower fields. Hyacinths and Tulips were blooming–long wide fields of them. Unique new varieties of flowers were on display, though the bulbs wouldn’t be available for a few years.

Massive smells of flowers and dirt. The red of the tulips burned the film it was so red.

We spent the final few days of our trip wandering the canals, watching the people and the dogs and the bicyclists, eating pancakes and enjoying the Irish bar and/or Cafe Otten in the evenings.

Fields of flowers at Keukenhof, Holland
Fields of flowers at Keukenhof, Holland

Keukenhof fields and canals
Holland’s Keukenhof area, rows and rows of flowers



Share Button