Thursday, October 20, 2016

Chihuly Nights in the Garden Exhibit at Atlanta Botanical Garden

As many of you know I have not had a chance to write much these last few weeks with the multiple deaths in our family and all the things done dealing with hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care, and making arrangements for funerals.  A hidden surprise that came from this was several members of my family decided to go anyway to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens just hours after my aunt’s funeral.  We were all excited expecting to see a beautiful blown glass exhibit throughout the gardens.  It did not disappoint anyone and we were all blown away by the mixture of different glass pieces set in the fauna around the gardens.

Dale Chihuly has been creating unique and amazing pieces of glass art work for over forty years.  He is an American artist whose studio and glassworks facility are located in Seattle Washington.  He has mastered the alluring, translucent and transparent qualities of ice, water, glass, and neon to create works of art that transform the viewer experience.  Globally renowned for his ambitious site specific architectural installations in public spaces and in exhibitions presented in more than 250 museums and gardens worldwide.

Chihuly’s work first appeared in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in 2004 and now returns to this urban oasis of hills and gardens for his dual “Chihuly in the gardens” a daytime experience and “Chihuly nights” where these beautiful art works come alive after dark with incredible lighting using various forms to create unique and exceptional forms in differing backdrops of gardens, cityscapes and sculptures.

For the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s 40th anniversary Chihuly Studios shipped six 53 foot containers delivering thousands of elements to be installed over a two week period for this wonderful exhibition. (Information above taken from the brochure)

The gardens were crowded but not overwhelming with all the people walking about.  It was a stroll that split the crowds going into different directions as the gardens seemed to be split into four different areas or gardens.  As we walked in it was just as dusk was happening so the transition from day to night was in full swing.  Once past the first wine, beer, and beverage vendors the crowd thinned out and the first piece that came into view was called, “Indigo Blue Icicle Tower”.  Everyone was taking photos as they approached by Kris and I went around to the other side and took our photo with the rising full moon above it along with the clouds going by.
The next area was the Anne Cox Chambers southern seasons garden with the beautiful “Fern Dell Paintbrushes” on display.
We strolled around toward the Lou Glenn Children’s garden to see the “Trumpet Flower Arbor” where we saw a squirrel going in and out of the bell shaped glass pieces.  As we were underneath it taking photos he stayed inside one of the bells so did not get him in the photo.
We made our way by Linton’s the garden to table restaurant to one of the showcase pieces on permanent display, the iconic “Sol del Citrón” at the Alston Overlook.
As we made our way from the Alston Overlook to the Levy Parterre we came upon a beautiful limestone fountain with a blue and white glass sculpture centered on the pedestal.  The Chihuly glass with the Atlanta skyline as a backdrop was impressive.  The IBM tower aglow in the distance with the moving water and the lighted glass made for a great slo-motion video and pictures.  You needed to look from several angles to see subtle chances to the piece.
Video – Fountain

One of my favorite pieces was the “Sapphire Star” which had a long tree lined walkway on the approach.  A long distance photo would have been nice but your eyes did the piece justice that a lens probably could not see.  As you were closer there was a pool around the blue and white ice like sculpture.  Reflections gave one impression looking down in the water while standing in front of the Star gave another with the lit buildings as a backdrop.

Walking into the large round grass garden each side had displays of “Carmel and Red Fiori” with the light glowing among the gardens on both sides.
We walked past the “Zebra Reeds” with the stark white/black translucent look and then through the Fuqua Orchid Center which had several pieces inside.  With the sound of tree frogs echoing throughout the trees and plants inside there was one of my favorite pieces which my interpretation was a Flamingo.
We strolled back past our starting point and went down the hill past an lighted exhibit called, “White Belugas” then went counter clockwise through Cascade Gardens with “Fiori Boat and Niijima Floats”.
Continuing down the trail to the Woodland Ramble and The Gardens in Storza Woods with the wonderful “Red Reeds” on display.
The “Saffron Tower” is one of the highlight exhibits with the bright yellow glass swirls winding and rising from the ground to about thirty feet high.  It is behind a long reflection pool (water mirror) capturing the lights reflected in the water and ripples.  Pictures do not give it the justice it deserves as it is impressive both in day or night surroundings.
The walk back up hill was on an elevated bridge taking us past and over our last two sculptures, “Green Hornets and Waterdrops” and “Chartreuse Hornet Polyvitto Chandelier”. 
It was a wonderful, fun night which we capped off with a trip down to The Varsity for a late evening snack.  Everyone enjoyed the exhibit and we talked all the way back to my sister’s house.   Dale Chihuly has many art pieces around the world so if you get the chance to view any I would highly recommend it.  I remember my first view of his work at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.  They were incredible and left one in awe wondering how someone could blow glass into such shapes and colors.  He has only gotten more creative in the years since that first exposure.

It was a nice break from the ongoing chaos my family has been experiencing lately to stroll in a beautiful oasis in the city at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Piedmont Park.


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Getting to Nitty Gritty . . .

Stand a Little Rain

“If we're ever gonna see a rainbow
We have to stand a little rain.”

That seems to be what my family is going through right now. We seem to be going through a period of thunderstorms, lightening and rain as we look forward to the rainbow and sunny times once again. With all that has happened over this year it has been both trying and an opportunity to remind oneself that we are not in control of our lives that things happen for a reason (sometimes we don’t totally understand at the time) and we just have to continue taking one step at a time moving forward in our life.

It’s been tough for everyone and the latest with my uncle Boe’s sudden passing and my aunt Doris still in rehab care for a broken hip and leg with full Alzheimer’s so the road ahead will be a long and winding one for everyone.  We are always thankful for our southern roots, a heritage which makes strong but pliable caring people.

The service last Friday was simple, great music, soft words, and beautiful clouds passing the large windows where the service was held.  The police motorcade to the cemetery wound and took us through familiar places where distant family and friends have lived over the years to the family plots where a beautiful service was done. The color guard with taps being played under a distant oak tree carried over the top of the hillside where my father is also buried.  The blue sky, soft breeze and warm sunshine seemed to lighten the mood of everyone who attended.

The family decided to go Applebee’s in honor of uncle Boe who had requested fried shrimp as his last meal.  Luckily I was able to go to this same restaurant Sunday night and provide him with the meal of his choice before his passing the next morning.  Friends and family gathered to rejoice in a life lived, telling some stories having fellowship before those who drove from out of town had to drive back to distant places. 

Music has always been a major part of my life and it is ironic that I saw about a month ago that one of my long-time favorite bands was playing at the north Georgia fair on Saturday night and was able to obtain tickets to go see them again with friends.  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is playing their 50 years together tour and their music rose from this mountain town uplifting everyone.  Their voices and individual play styles of the various instruments over their two plus hour set was great.
My mood lifted, their words ringing in my ears and in my mind of where we come from, what we have been through over the years and where we head in life going one day at a time (the only real moment we have). 

“I was standing by my window, on one warm and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse come rolling for to carry my uncle away
Will the circle be unbroken by and by, Lord, by and by there's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, lord, in the sky.” (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, 1972)


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

My eulogy for Doug Coker

Before I left Portland Oregon to come to Atlanta when my brother in law, Doug Coker passed away unexpectedly I knew I would not arrive in time for his memorial service so I wrote a eulogy that my brother Ron spoke during the service.  I wanted to post it now so I would have a record of it during my travels. Thanks to all of you who have posted or emailed your thoughts and prayers for our family as it is much appreciated by everyone.
Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love, time is eternity.
Hours fly, flowers die,
New days, new ways pass by,
Love stays. (Henry Van Dyke)

Though my heart is filled with much sadness during this time, my thoughts will not be one of despair, nor of loss, and mourning, but it is one of hope, love, and celebration.  I had the good fortune of knowing Doug since early childhood, living in the same neighborhood, spending time and growing up with him and his brother Tony.  I had the good fortune to call Doug one of my lifelong friends, a brother to me much like my own.  We played many rounds of golf over the years before I left Atlanta, spent vacation time or just hanging out talking and discussing the world’s problems with that somewhat sarcastic bite that Doug was known for.  I can attest to his talents in business, good humor, strengths but also, the gentleness and kindness, to which he personified.  Doug’s wit and sometimes “dig” into those he loved were what made everyone drawn to him.  Doug was the type of person who lived this life to the fullest, who took advantage of each and every minute. Always there for everyone; family, friends, or business associates he was always there to listen, give his opinion or be there for everyone.  These were always the fundamental qualities that dominated Doug’s character. 

Though now I may mourn the loss of such a brother and friend, I will forever cherish that friendship I shared with him and celebrate the time we had growing up together. For I believe he would want each of us to continue living our lives in the same manner he did. He would want us to laugh and continue our lives again. 

And rather than to mourn his death, I believe he would want us to celebrate his life. 

In keeping with that spirit of his life, I thought about the many things that Doug did to make me laugh.  Such as, one time in our youth when I refused to go to any of the school dances because, I couldn’t dance. Doug did his best to teach me how to dance but I guess I wasn’t a natural dancer. I will never forget how Doug told me if anyone was ever born without rhythm, it was I. He laughed at my two left feet and to this day have problems getting up there to dance, usually rather enjoying the music from afar while everyone else dances the night away. 

But, such was the way with Doug.  After he married my sister Judy we reunited our families once again and became grown up best friends.  We would laugh together ever acting the youths we were: weekly golf outings while laughing with each other, as we would talk about our lives, families, work,  and all the other things best friends would do and talk about with each other.  Family was always the top of our list as we made our change from youth to adults and later into our middle years and the changes and experiences we’ve had. 

But, that’s what best friends are for; to share in the joys and sometimes in the pain & hurts that we encounter on life’s highway; Doug was a friend who was always there when I was down, to lend a hand when I needed help, and to be there as we grew and learned. He was always there to encourage me, to push me to do better and be a better person. Doug was the embodiment of this, a real and true friend, a second brother.

But, just as we impatient youths can’t wait to grow up, life unfortunately, sometimes pulls us in different directions and we grow up becoming engulfed by a cruel world that leaves little time for us to just stop and smell the flower’s sweet scent on a cool breeze. I left Atlanta in 1995 and our time golfing was cut short only the occasional round we could work in during my visits. Our last round together was arranged by my brother Ron last summer in Jacksonville Beach.  
It was the typical hot, humid July day with little breeze but beautiful blue skies.  We all sweat, enjoyed our time in the sun and remembered all the years playing together which was sorely missed by both of us. Doug told me that the real cruelty of being grown up and becoming adults was that the world sometimes makes us forget that we should have more fun or a good laugh every day.

Since I left Atlanta it seems so long ago now, Doug’s health had been an ongoing issue.  Strong as ever but problems with his heart over the recent years I’m sure have taken their toll on his body.  We laughed many times being good southern men who loved great BBQ or steaks on the grill.  It was only later that we tried to do better with our diets and cut back somewhat on our southern foods and deserts which was always hard for both of us.

Yet in talking to Doug several weeks ago after building a deck in Oregon for friends, I was invited back to Atlanta to work on the decks around the house.  In true Doug fashion, I was invited to come down, do the work but I had to leave once it was finished.  He was not going to “take me to raise” and was ready to downsize his house for a home on the beach.  That is a dream we both seemed to want as we grew older.   

That is why I choose to celebrate Doug’s life, not his death.  There’s a song that I play a lot that has been kind of a morning wake up music.  The 1939 classic “Somewhere over the rainbow” played by the late Hawaiian “Izzy”, by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole.  His soothing vocals make it a very peaceful and calming experience listening to the song.  The song speaks of this magical place over the rainbow where things will be better.  It refers to this other, better place compared to where we are now.  If you feel down and out, and when things seem tough, this song will lift you up.  Just remember that the better place isn’t “somewhere out there”, but here where we are now.  It’s up to us to make the best of what we have!

I’m thankful that Doug’s last act of kindness to me was in reminding me sometimes we could all stand to be happy in this life.  To enjoy this miracle that is our lives, and to see the perfection of the child in all of us, the child that knows the honesty of love, the kindness of a friend, and the beauty of the spirit within all of us. 

And it is that Spirit that is my dear friend and Brother Doug; and for as long as we each remember him will never be gone from us, never pass away, and will never fade.  But, will continue to live in our hearts and minds.  For it is the joyous memories of Doug and family members that he leaves with us; not the sadness that this life was tragically stopped and cut short, nor that for now our sight may be blurred by our tears of sadness but, that even though in Doug’s passing on to a higher plain, he leaves us with his living memory in the spirit of everyone he touched in this earthly life.

To our family; I mourn with you in our time of loss and hope that your grief will in time be replaced by the precious memories everyone has of him.

For my friend and brother, I can only say, you will continue to live on in my heart and spirit, for you have taught me the kindness and love of a friend, confidant, and brother over the years which have forever touched my life by showing me how to see through the eyes of our hearts.


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Grief can have far reaching effects

Grief can have far reaching effects

“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Over the last several months my family has been going through some major changes to our lives due to an unexpected death in the family. It has brought with it many different feelings and thoughts about the short term future and long-time changes to things.

Trying to be an observer has been hard in that I lost a lifelong best friend and seeing the interactions of my family has been hard on me and everyone else.  Grief can take many forms in all of us and there are some shared emotions but I have found that it is a very different and unique experience for each of us depending on the relationship within our family structure.

Losing a husband, father, grandfather, brother-in-law, best friend, and so many other combinations is a complicated and sometimes trying thing for us to go through.  We each have a different perspective from which our life experience is seeing the situation and reacting to things going on around us.  All our feeling and turmoil’s are valid but there are so many things that have caused hurt feelings and possible misunderstandings because we each see things from a totally different perspective.

Trying to support each other and dealing with our own feelings of grief or uncertainty has been at times difficult and not what I would call our normal family temperament.  The dynamics changed when everyone was thrown into such an unfamiliar situation which changed so much of the family.  I found myself wanting to explore all of the different ways people respond to and learn to live with loss in a culture that generally tries to avoid it.  Grief is often described as a journey, but it’s an intensely individual and often isolating one: rarely do people speak openly about the range of ways of grieving, and there are many misconceptions about the grief process.  What many may think of grief occurring in stages what we have found that it is not a neat predictable experience.   It’s actually a jumble of feelings and thoughts that can have you flipping back and forth from one stage to another, between emotional highs and lows that can be terrifying at times.

Some of the things our family is going through over the last several months is:

Numbness or Shock, this can involve a sense of unreality and of being lost, as if you’re living in a bad dream.  You want to “wake up” and everything is normal again but finds that is not the case or will never go back to what once was.  In the extreme, you may feel as if you’re going crazy but that can feel like the lesser of the multitude of emotions going through you during this time. 

Disorganization, after the initial shock wears off our family has started going through a rush of emotions that can included sadness, anger, poor concentration, loss of interest or motivation, fear, guilt, denial, depression, regret and yearning.  We have gone so far as to even begin to question life choices, religious beliefs, relationships and the future.  This emotional upheaval is apparently normal and necessary in working through our grief.

Reorganization is partially where we are in the grieving process right now.  Going over things with the family business, vehicles, and property are all being worked on now trying to get the first priorities started or addressed.  Downsizing and slowly making adjustments to the priority list is starting to give some normalcy but the loss and tears are still flowing everyday as one thing triggers a memory or thing that takes everyone down for a bit only to remember the good things or times which are a mixed blessing.  Will this diminish over time and something positive replace this lost feeling we are all having I do not know but I know we all are a strong southern family so we will dig in, reach deep and put the broken pieces together again.  We will not have all the pieces but the spirit and love felt will get us going once again. With time hopefully we will be able to begin to adjust to the new life without Doug which was lost. We can then focus on life and enjoy moments of happiness again, even when thinking about our lost loved one.

Hopefully working through these stages, at our own pace, we, especially my sister, will eventually find a new normal for herself where she can reinvest in relationships with friends and activities.  So far the support from our friends here in Atlanta and elsewhere has been overwhelming. 

From Kenny Chesney song “Don’t Blink”:

"Best start putting first things first."
Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand
You can't flip over and start again
Take every breathe God gives you for what it's worth.
Don’t blink.”

Our family is truly blessed but I am reminded that the best moment to be happy is the one that is happening right now.  Don’t wait in your life to be happy with things, work, relationships, or so many things that you waste precious time with your spouse, brother, sister, grand kids, or other people in your life because it can be changed in an instant.  Keep us in your prayers my friends as we do for you.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Backpacking your way through life

My analogy of life through a backpacker eyes.

Imagine yourself as a traveler walking through life with a backpack on your back.

Your life is the journey, the road ahead is your future and the bag on your back is your past.  As you walk through your journey of life you pick up rocks of all shapes and sizes along the way which symbolize memories and experiences from your past.

Now imagine you are walking forward on your journey with the bag on your back: it will be fine to have a couple of the rocks in the backpack, but if you carry too many heavy rocks around with you, eventually the backpack will get too heavy and you will no longer be able to continue moving forward. You become tired and overwhelmed with all the weight you carry around with you and can’t seem to want to move on with your life.

After a bit of time you see that to move forward once again you have to take the backpack off, look at those memories from the past, acknowledge the past for what it was, bank the good ones keeping them with you and dumping all those bad memories out of your backpack.

Forgive yourself or others if needed and keep the good ones with you.  Put the backpack on again and start/keep moving forward on to new adventures and people in your life.

Pain is inevitable but misery is a choice!

You can always get a bigger backpack but why bother, dump the extra weight in your life and save the great memories of your life. Pack that extra bottle of water or bottle of wine and enjoy the hike of your life. 

Anything can change in an instant so don’t waste time drugging up the past, it is gone, today is the only “real” day in your life and if you’re lucky you have a chance for another real day tomorrow.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Where it all started, 11-07-2005

I've had several people recently ask me how long I have been blogging and how did it all start.  I searched back through the archives and found my second post (first real post) where it all started.  My inquisitive side (plus my office at the time was in the laundry room) so my imagination took over and many years later has taken me on many travels, thoughts about many subjects and just weird observations along the way.  If you have some free time go back through the archives and enjoy some good reads along the way. (Most are a great length for bathroom reading, lol).

Did you ever wonder?

A couple of nights ago after a really long week I was sitting in my washing machine trying to figure out how the Downy Ball works.

The water was really cold until I hit the button for Hot/Cold water and changed the setting to “extra large” load. I like using the Downy “Enhancer” Ball for that clean fresh smell it gives all of my clothes and sheets. I especially like the “April Fresh” scent. The “Soft Ocean Mist” really didn’t do a lot for me as I guess I have never really been a “beach person”. The “Mountain Spring” scent was nice but the constant draw of mosquitoes and other flying insects kept me from using this one.

I pour that nice silky Blue Liquid into the Ball, put the rubber top on it and drop it into the water next to me. It floats along side me during the wash cycle.

I watched and waited for something to happen to the little Ball. I waited . . . And waited. Nothing happened with the Ball but this cycle was a little uncomfortable for me as the agitator keep hitting my leg and also knocking my head into the top rim of the wash tub. This cycle lasted about 9 minutes but soon led to the really fun part.

Have you ever been to the Fair and rode the big Barrel Ride? The spin cycle is almost like that ride.You start spinning around faster and faster. Everything is a blurrrrr on both of these. The Fair ride has the floor fall away below you about 3 feet and everyone is pinned to the walls for several minutes as the ride continues. The force keeps you solidly against the wall until the floor is brought back up to your feet.

The spin cycle is similar in that you are turning so fast. I tried to watch the Downy Ball but could not see it below me. When we stopped spinning and I finally got my wits about me I looked down and saw that the little rubber plug top had slid down into the Blue liquid. The ball again floated but this time the liquid was mixing with the water as this fresh smell and smooth feeling crept all over me. It was a state of mind I have not been to in a long while. After this adventure I am not sure I will attain this feeling again anytime soon.
Over the next 10 minutes was another rinse and repeat spin cycle which made me to dizzy to write this down until today.

Going through our lives is an ever learning and always “mind expanding” experience. Don’t just sit on the sidelines of life, always seek those truly unique experiences to learn and explore our weird and fascinating world. Remember what Forrest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

Now you know the secret of the Downy Ball but I enjoyed every minute of this one.
Winter is fast approaching with snow now falling on the mountaintops and the need to find ways to entertain ourselves during the long darkness. I probably should have saved this for December but it was too good to wait that long.

Oh and before I forget, when you climb into that over sized dryer for another unique experience that should not be missed, always throw in that Downy Dryer sheet to remove all that “static cling” from those tumbles. I always hated having all kinds of socks and underwear hanging off of me when I climb out of the Dryer. It has always bothered me when I get those extra stares from the people when that extra sock or ladies underwear falls off as I walk out of the Laundromat.


Friday, August 26, 2016

What is lonely?

What is lonely?

I have been asked by several people since I started my travels if I am lonely traveling alone over the many miles I have gone so far?  I think the thing about the question is that it really leaves a lot to be defined.
Lonely compared to what?  Compared to before I started travelling?  Compared to you?  Compared to the locals and people I meet along the way or where I am?  Compared to a “typical” single guy my age?  Compared to a married guy with children and an active social life?

For one thing there are many aspects of loneliness.  You can be lonely even if surrounded by people who know you because you feel they don’t “get” you. You can be lonely in a long-term relationship because you realize it isn’t going great and possibly over.  You can be lonely because you are stuck in a routine (at home or work) and not having deep conversations with people.  There are so many ways you may feel lonely in groups of people or all alone.

It just seems so obvious to many people that I must feel lonely as a solo traveler since I don’t have anyone physically or constantly there with me.  I wish I did since sharing adventures and travels is one of the things I love the best in my life.

But to me loneliness depends way more on the person’s mindset than on their situation.  By getting over the shy feelings and maintaining some personality when I meet new people, I can usually make new friends quickly no matter where I am.  Some places have been tougher to do this, but with persistence I always make one or several friends along the way.

People may say, “You can’t make a true friend in just a short time!”  I tend to disagree with that statement since over the years I have made many friends online having never met.  Once meeting in real life it was like we were best buddies forever. 
My Canadian friend Russ is a great example.  We met online almost fifteen years ago and he has probably been my best friend over the years even when we have not seen each other for a while.  When I would drive through Canada on my way to or from Alaska he was always a stop during my road trip.

I used to say about my ex-wife, “She never met a stranger only a friend she hadn’t met yet”.  She had a way she could comfortably talk to anyone when just meeting for the first time.  I keep that philosophy while on the road opening myself up to so far some pretty incredible meetings. When I have stopped by the roadside to give cold water to several lone bicyclists who shared their story of travelling while I shared mine, it opens up a whole new meaning to travelling.  People are on the road for a multitude of reasons and everyone has a story which is pretty cool if you have the chance to stop and listen.  Others in places to eat, rest areas along the way and at the many attractions where I have stopped, especially when I pull out Placido Flamingo to take photos or request others to share in my photo opportunity.
I don’t restrict my definition of friend to the sadly restrictive (for most of us) one of someone who I have known since childhood.  No matter where you are on the road, if you are open to making a new friend either with other travelers such as myself, or (more ideally) with those from the location I am visiting.  Hopefully I will never feel alone.