What I Want You to Know

This year, well actually tomorrow, our first granddaughter turns thirteen. I have taken so many pictures of her over the years, many on my iPad or sitting in frames around the house, that I’m having a hard time seeing her as the young woman she is becoming. I see her, but really I see That Little Two-year-old in the ladybug costume at Halloween. Or the child in the pink hoodie and purple straw hat, holding a flower she had just picked from the yard. Sometimes I see the young girl in shorts and a helmet sitting on a pony, unsure if she wants down or to keep on riding. 

Living in such close proximity we’ve had the extraordinary blessing of being able to see her and her sister regularly. Growing up, my grandparents lived in another state. We saw them only occasionally for holidays, or perhaps when they passed thru town pulling their travel trailer behind the big Oldsmobile on their way to my aunt and uncle’s home in Oregon for the summer. Our visits were always brief, the years passed quickly seemingly marked by the exchange of school pictures we sent them annually. 

My wife and son got to meet my grandmother only once. We arrived at my aunt and uncle’s home in time to join in a birthday celebration for Grandma. She was 98 that year and though her eyesight was failing, still her health and spirits were good. The excitement of opening gifts, cake and ice cream, meeting my family and talking more than she was used to must have been taxing on her. She soon retired to her small room to rest. It was the last time we would see her. She died two years later, just days shy of turning 100.

Oh, I love my new hat!

All that to say, what time we had spent with grandparents over the years wasn’t spent in reminiscing or talking about the past. Other than what could be gleaned from a few black and white photos, I know very little about the lives of my grandparents. 

So I was encouraged when my wife Deb picked up a special gift for our granddaughter. It’s in the form of a journal, really a collection of letters that you write, to be opened at a later date. It’s called “Letters to My Grandchild,” with the clever subtitle “A Paper Time Capsule.”

There are twelve prepackaged envelopes in booklet form. Nicely packaged, beautiful graphics and stickers remind one of those special airmail envelopes from generations ago. Clever titles like “The best advice anyone ever gave me,” or “It may surprise you to learn that…” are great topics for discussion starters. There are envelopes that focus on the past (“One positive change I have seen in the world”) and there are ones that allow a glimpse into the future (“My wishes for you are”).

Over a recent weekend getaway, Deb and I sat down to fill them out, each of us writing a short couple of paragraphs to seal up for the future. For one title, “Here is a special story about our family,” we’ve included the story about our drive through Florida during Hurricane Frances-2004. Not one of my better decisions, but the story of a rescue by strangers will hopefully be encouraging to her. 

The teen years can be challenging for everyone—the teen, her parents and siblings, and even grandparents who have a rough time seeing the person of today and not the small child of our memories. It’s important to recognize and see the person standing before us and not the imagined child from the photo albums if we are to be allies and mentors. Watching them grow up, we have been blessed to live in close proximity to our young extended family— Lord knows I can’t see myself pulling a 22 ft. trailer cross country to visit grandchildren!

The Long Reach of Memory

I was on Facebook the other day, scrolling past political arguments, pictures of cute dogs, homes being made ready for the holidays. It’s funny how you can be brought up short, suddenly frozen in the moment by an image from your past.

It was a photo of a barn in Washoe Valley not far from where I had grown up in Reno. The barn was red, not an uncommon color, the steeply pitched roofline common for the area’s barns which were designed to hold bales of hay thru the winter. It’s nestled up against the mountains and set off by striking gold leafed trees, made even more pronounced by the early dusting of snow. A small fence can be seen in the foreground. (Photo by Sharon Voss, from Facebook group “Only in Nevada”)

I had seen similar barns on a recent vacation in central Virginia. Similar, but not the same. A beautiful horse barn on the Montpelier mansion property had caught my attention and we stopped to get a few pictures of it and the unusual green color of the siding. The barn shape reminded me of buildings I had seen out West, not at all like the many dairy barns we have here in Loudoun County. 

Later that day we found our way to the 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, our home base for the weekend as we explored the area and vineyards near Charlottesville VA. As we settled in, the afternoon sun was spectacular on the trees and really set off the red siding of the farm equipment structure across the lawn from us. Trees with brilliant tones of gold and orange contrasted with dark limbs. A white fence lead the eye through the idyllic composition. Again, the scene was oddly familiar. 


My stepmother Dorathy and my Dad both passed away within weeks of one another in 2007. He was 81 and had slowly succumbed to the effects of Alzheimer’s. She had predeceased him by a mere three weeks, a victim of respiratory failure. She would have been 97 this year on the 18th of November. We flew out for their memorial service, and later gathered with my brothers and their wives to go through what remained of my folks’ belongings at the home they had lived in for 38 years. I brought back a painting of the Sierra Nevada mountains that I had grown up enjoying. As a young artist it had been a goal of mine to be able to paint as well. There were other paintings of their’s but those must must have gone into storage. 

When I saw the photo on Facebook of the Washoe Valley barn, it all fell into place. The barns we had seen on our recent vacation, and then the photo of the Nevada barn, all reminded me of a painting which had hung in my parents’ home for years. A red barn. Set against the mountains. Trees in autumn, a rail fence. Though strangely enough, a lake curiously close to the barn reflecting the scene. 

And as I remembered it all, the painting had been done by Maxine Peters, my stepmother’s sister, of a red barn in Washoe Valley back in the 1960s. She loved the site but had painted it with Washoe Lake (or perhaps a pond) coming right up to the barn in order to maximize the color in the scene. An artist’s vision had altered the landscape to create something that only existed in her mind, but which had lived on for years in our home. She had some repute as a genre painter, exhibiting at local galleries and art shows, and we were quite proud to have one of her paintings hanging in the living room. 

Dad and Dorathy at the Lake cabin

They are a tricky thing, memories. There are times when I feel I have completely forgotten everything that happened before last week. When I talk with my 92-year-old mother, I am always surprised at how much she can still recall of her childhood. I’ve relied on photos of people and events to jog my memory, and that only recently. I’ve become the family photographer and archivist in part to ward off the eventual dimming of memory. We often say in jest, “if I didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen.” Some truth to that, though as I found out this week, it can be surprising how long the reach of memory can be.

Making New Old

When I closed my small business a couple of years ago, I thought that it was likely the end of my decorative-painting career. I had started Turtle Hill Originals as an opportunity to market and sell the small, home decor items I had been painting, and up until then, selling thru local craft shows. A business brought with it business cards, brochures, a website, an Etsy storefront, Facebook page, and access to wholesale pricing on materials. But after three years and minimal sales, we decided that enough was enough.

I was about twelve years old, as I recall, when I first became interested in refinishing furniture. I had found a small footstool set out for trash pickup one day and decided to bring it home. The cushion would need to be replaced, the wooden legs and frame sanded smooth, stained and varnished. But I was confident that I could make something old look new again.

The next project I tackled was a rocking chair and after that it was a stream of small pieces that found a new life, refreshed and useful again. The smell of sawdust, walnut stain, and varnish at that time competed with my desire to be a fine artist. And looking back now, both shared similar skills but with differing goals.

I don’t know when, but sometime over the intervening years I lost interest in bringing old pieces back to life. It could have been the many years I spent in the museum and trade show industry helping to create graphics for many of our Smithsonian museums. The casework we created was gorgeous, beautifully finished pieces I would love to have had in my home. Their pristine surfaces were lacquered and glowed in the soft museum lighting. But I was being drawn towards the textured, roughly painted surfaces of scenic reproductions.

Starting with new materials, the scenic and props department turned New into Old. Whether it was a rusted time-worn metal finish, or desert-bleached wood, the trompe l’oeil effects of the paintbrush were magical and I loved it. Learning to use brushes, sponges, and spatter techniques served me well when I was called on to help create props and stage sets for our local church’s dramatic Easter productions.

Once I retired, I found I had the time to continue my decorative painting. I haven’t felt the self-imposed pressure to create pieces for sale that I had been under when I was struggling to promote a business. Contrary to popular belief, I had found that there isn’t always a market for what you love to do.

But after we downsized and moved to a smaller home, small projects keep popping up. Another side table for my recliner, a whimsical plant stand painted in a harlequin pattern, even a refresh of the painted pumpkins I had made several years ago are all projects I’ve enjoyed doing recently. Below are some of the pieces that I’ve worked on this past month. I might not be making old new again, but I am enjoying aging along with the process of making new things appear old. “Gracefully aged,” I should say!

Celebrating 100 Years of Rodeo

Last summer we flew out to Las Vegas and drove out to visit the Grand Canyon. On February 26, 2019, the Grand Canyon National Park celebrated 100 years since it’s designation as a national park with events and activities scheduled all year long. When I discovered this year that 2019 was also the centennial of the Reno Rodeo, I nearly had a heart attack. We could have celebrated two centennials in one year! It wasn’t until this year, long after we had canceled plans to visit Reno, that I found an online article outlining last year’s events for the centennial of the Reno Rodeo.

It was over the July 4th weekend, July 3-5, 1919 that local promoters had scheduled the first Reno Round-up. The community celebration was led by the Commercial Club at the time, which merged with the Reno Business League in 1919 to form the Reno Chamber of Commerce. 

Nevada Round-up, from The Yerington Times, Yerington NV 1919

In 1937 the Reno Rodeo and Livestock Association was formed to manage the event. In 1987, they celebrated their 50th anniversary and reorganized as the Reno Rodeo Association. Reno Rodeo Association has led this signature event which has grown into a 10-day romp entertaining 140,000 fans each year. https://renorodeo.com/about/history/

But going back to the beginning of it all, The Silver State newspaper of Winnemucca, NV published an article in July of 1919 in which they mentioned that the Round-up would “mark the first representative gathering of Wild West riders, buckaroos and range experts since the beginning of the war nearly five years ago.” 

The first rodeo advertised $5000 in prize money. During last year’s rodeo, June 21 thru June 29, contestants were expecting to  compete for their chance at nearly $500,000 in prize money. Wow. That’s some growth!

The annual rodeo was a major event when I grew up in Reno. My pals and I attended as much for the adjacent carnival as we did to watch the bull riding and calf roping events. But it’s been decades since I’ve seen a rodeo in person. 

When I learned that last year was the centennial, I decided to create my own commemorative poster. That, and the hand painted frame to showcase my Nevada roots, became my most recent project.

A vintage frame, a silver dollar and two bucks in mercury dimes from my Dad’s estate, turquoise cabochons I cut back in my college years, red coral cabochons I found on Etsy along with cowhide from an outlet in Texas to serve as a backdrop for my state: all found there way into my mini memorial. An Ode to Cowboys!

I was given a vintage picture frame several years ago and have waited to find just the right project to use it on. I decided to go with a whimsical western-style frame decked out in red coral cabochons, silver to commemorate Nevada’s position as the Silver State, and several of the turquoise gemstones I’ve had stashed away in a box for the past 40-some-odd years.

One of the outstanding features of Nevada, at least to those in the Northern part of the state, are the beautiful high-mountain waters of Lake Tahoe. Using another piece of turquoise to represent the lake, it is set on a cowhide background featuring the silhouette of Nevada.

The completed project will find it’s home in our guest bedroom along with a number of other graphics, books on the area, and memorabilia I’ve collected thru the years. I might have missed out on last year’s celebration, but I’ve at least got my own souvenir of the celebration, and it’s definitely one of a kind!

Home Means Nevada!

Backroads

Several weeks ago we took a long weekend to get out of Northern Virginia and see some of the beautiful countryside that surrounds us. We ended up in Western Maryland, but rather than take the Interstate (US 15 to I 70, head west) we decided to take the more scenic route. Passing thru Strasbourg, we drove along US 48 thru farm land and on thru the rising foothills of West Virginia. 

A side trip along Capon Springs Road dropped us off at Capon Springs and Farms, a family resort begun in the 19th century. The bandstand out in a landscaped park looked like it might have been the site of many evening concerts in the past, entertaining guests at this charming old-style resort. Definitely a place to check out in the future. The Main House, which was originally called the Annex, was constructed in 1887 under the proprietorship of a Captain William Sale. The Pavilion once housed thirty-two soaking baths during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, being transformed into guest rooms during the 1930s.

Driving on, we came to Carpers Pike and cruised along in the pick up until we stopped at the Visitors Center in Wardensville, rejoining US Route 48. 

The Visitors Center appeared to have originally been a school building and the older couple, who evidently were the caretakers, confirmed our guess. Perhaps we were the only visitors they had seen that day, or maybe that generation just likes to talk. Whatever, they were happy to share about their efforts to have the school building preserved as a Visitor Center. At 84 years young, he was a talkative docent, giving us the local history while she argued with someone on the phone about the poor internet connection, or the reasons why the WiFi was down last week. Sounds just like at home.

When I asked if there were a place in town we could get a cup of coffee, he suggested the place across the street, “If you want to pay four dollahs for a cup a’ coffee.”

So we tried it out, The Lost River Trading Post, which seemed to be a mash up of a Starbucks, artisans outlet, and a retail store. We had a couple of lattes (large vanilla latte, $4.75) and commemorated the visit with the purchase of a boots-wearing-cow magnet. The shop did seem out of place for a very small town in West Virginia, though with its mix of handmade soaps, vintage kitchen ware, and framed artwork it must feel right at home for visitors from Northern Virginia.

One final stop before we reached our destination, a quick pullover to snap pictures of the ridgetop wind turbines we had seen for miles as we drove thru the mountains. The Fourmile Ridge Wind Farm has 16 turbines and has been operational since 2015. They are quite a sight to see, and whether or not they will eventually begin to replace fossil fuels power plants on an economically feasible basis remains to be seen. They are visually striking, but after seeing them at a distance for miles, and then up close, I fully sympathize with the “Not In My Backyard” sentiment.

The Interstate Highway System has been a mixed blessing, I’m sure. Wikipedia reports that “After Dwight D. Eisenhower became president in 1953, his administration developed a proposal for an interstate highway system, eventually resulting in the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Construction of the Interstate Highway System was proclaimed complete in 1992. The cost of construction of the Interstate Highway System was approximately $114 billion (equivalent to $530 billion in 2019).

But the highway system has left behind many smaller towns and communities, completely bypassed as we motor along those smooth roadways. As I’ve gotten older, I really do try and make the effort, remembering that The Journey can often be more rewarding than The Destination. 

Yurt Life, Part Two

From luxury accommodations to real-world portable homes, the yurt (or ger as it is known in Mongolia) has provided shelter and a sustainable way of life for thousands of years. While the construction materials may differ from those used here in the United States, the shape and suitability of these portable structures are very similar to the one in which we recently stayed.

Several years ago, Julie Stoll and her daughter Jean had the opportunity of a lifetime, traveling and experiencing a bit of the nomadic life on a visit to Mongolia. While there, they visited with camel herders and sheep shearers, seeing a way of life that included solar panels and satellite dish antennas as a means to stay connected with the rest of the world. Modern technology accompanies these families as they travel across the vast landscapes of their homeland, carrying their homes with them. 

I spoke with Julie via Zoom this week as we both shared our “glamping tent experience”, her’s at the Gorkhi-Terkel National Park in Mongolia, mine at the Savage River Lodge in western Maryland. Separated by thousands of miles and different cultures, these structures are essentially the same: a cylindrical tent featuring a conical roof, either with a central tent pole in large structures, or without one in the smaller tents. But interior furnishings, decoration, and even the presence (or absence in their case) of windows puts them worlds apart.

The Gers are round enclosures made from wood and wool felt, usually hand made by the family. A central hole in the roof allows both light in and smoke from the cooking stove to vent. Whether lavishly decorated, with embroidered fabrics and bed quilts, or the more rustic homes with small wood burning stoves for heat, these structures all have a single door and no windows. The wood latticework supporting the walls help to make the entire construction easily collapsible for transport. Rugs cover the interior floor and allow seating anywhere. 

Traveling for a couple of weeks in this remote country, there were many cultural events to experience. Julie had hoped to attend the Naadam Festival in Mongolia. The popular festival showcases traditional sports including wrestling, horseracing, and archery. Julie and Jean were able to attend a local event during their stay and saw much of the athletic ability for which the Mongolian people are known. A performance of throat singing made a great impression on these two.

Julie Stoll recorded this performance of Mongolian throat singing during her 2016 visit to that country.

The Smithsonian website has an informative write up on this mysterious vocal technique. Throat-singing, a guttural style of singing or chanting, is one of the world’s oldest forms of music. For those who think the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising. In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat’s resonance characteristics.

Our yurt was made with vinyl covered canvas, had hardwood floors and radiant heat, a tiled bathroom, two doors, windows and air conditioning. The gers Julie experienced were designed for portability, one door, few furnishings, a small wooden stove for heating and cooking. Yet it’s a remarkable aspect of adaptability that the same structure, with only slight modifications, has become a popular and trendy vacation option here in the States. There is a lot to be said for that type of design simplicity.


All photos courtesy Julie Stoll. Julie reports that they traveled with Dream Mongolia (dreammongolia.com). Private tours…they organized great guides and accommodations. Julie and I first met when we taught ESL at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA a number of years ago.

More Rocks, Large and Small

I had thought we were pretty much through with the whole “summer rocks” thing, at least the number of painted rocks in our neighborhood found along our walking paths has diminished. But still, with the close of summer and the promise of fall waiting to be revealed, I have found a few more of these graphic stones worth sharing.

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve posted as many of the better-painted ones that I could. Lately, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in them, or at least it seems like it. Perhaps a new artist has moved into the area and has taken up creating these small nuggets of encouragement.

Charleton Heston, from a publicity image for the movie “The Ten Commandments.”
Image from Amazon

Which got me to thinking about our desire to preserve words on stone. 
For many, perhaps the first image to come to mind might be Charlton Heston in the role of Moses, walking down from Mount Sinai brandishing tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments inscribed upon them.

Another stone of great historical importance would be the Code of Hammurabi. A great black pillar of diorite standing more than seven feet tall, the Babylonian king had it inscribed with 282 laws which are one of the earliest and most complete written legal codes from ancient times. It was found in 1901 at the site of Susa in Iran.

Stele of the Code of Hammurabi, Image from Wikipedia
Rosetta Stone, image from Wikipedia

The Rosetta Stone is another quite famous piece of granite.

While the top and middle groupings of text are Egyptian using hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts respectively, the bottom is in Ancient Greek. It was discovered in 1799 by the French during the Napoleonic Campaign in Egypt and became the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In Washington DC, I would say that the text inscribed on the limestone walls of the Lincoln Memorial from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address powerfully capture the man’s heart for generations to read. 

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

And not faraway, these words on Martin Luther Kings’s massive statue, caved out of pink granite, ring out: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” According to the official National Park Service brochure for the Memorial, the fourteen inscriptions that were chosen to be placed on the inscription wall “stress four primary messages of Dr. King: justice, democracy, hope, and love.”

While hardly on the scale of these mighty stones of remembrance, the small rocks found in our neighborhood serve many of the same purposes, hoping to encourage, uplift, or remind us of timeless messages. Faith. Hope. Love. Be True. Be Steadfast. Be kind. Smile. You are terrific!  Have a nice day!

Home Made

John Landis Mason invented the Mason Jar on November 30, 1858. In 1884, Ball Corporation began manufacturing glass home-canning jars, the product that established Ball as a household name and licensed Mason’s design.

I didn’t grow up in a household where we canned fruits and vegetables. Living in the suburbs, our garden only had a few tomato plants, a few green vegetables and the occasional zucchini plant. It was our small version of a Victory Garden but it never produced much more than we could eat that summer.

However, my Dad’s sister and her family always had a huge garden and they canned as much as possible. Back during the late 50’s and on into the 60s, I remember visiting the cousins “on the ranch”  and helping pick blackberries, cherries, apples, and a variety of smaller vegetables that they would preserve. I have great memories of helping cook apples for apple butter, making watermelon pickles, and helping prepare the jars and lids for canning. It was a lot of work and the large country kitchen was full of small helpers, my cousins and I each with an assigned task.

I think it was that sense of sharing in a generations-old activity that encouraged me to try canning with my granddaughter. 

What is America’s favorite flavor? According to data based on the U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS), 163.97 million Americans consumed strawberry jams, jellies and preserves in 2019. So strawberry jam was on our list to try.

Nearly 128 million consumed grape jams or jellies. Raspberry, blackberry, and apricot round out the top five flavors, though considerably farther behind (50; 38; and 33 million). So we bought fresh strawberries from the market and a gallon jug of Welch’s grape juice to make strawberry jam and grape jelly. 

If you haven’t tried your hand at home made preserves, it’s surprising how much time is involved in preparing utensils, boiling water, sterilizing bottles and lids, cutting up fruit, measuring sugar and many other little tasks. While I got our little production underway, Cadence cut up the strawberries we had purchased.

Our assembly line worked pretty smoothly, the kitchen was filled with the smell of ripe strawberries, and the introduction to an element of frontier living went better than I could have hoped. We’ve got enough bottled preserves to last us through the winter, and though we never did make the pickles I had promised her, there is still time to try this summer.

While searching online for recipes and where to purchase mason jars, I was really surprised to see the many creative uses for mason jars that people have been inspired to share. The website freshpreserving in particular, had a lot of fun DIY projects for jars. The locking ring and lid are particular features of the mason jar. However, the website masonjars marketplace has an array of accessories to replace the traditional lid with pour spout lids, dispensor pumps, or spray tops to make reusable glass storage ware.

The wedding industry doesn’t seem to have slowed down in their love of rustic, DIY presentation and the mason jar has a proud position at the table as well as in lighting and other creative uses. And whatever your style, Etsy has it covered with over 51,000 entries alone for “mason jar decor.” That’s a pretty good heritage for John Mason and his glass container patent for the “Improvement In Screw-Neck Bottles.” It was the first hermetically re-sealable glass jar (US 22186A). His improvements, coupled with a rubber washer, transformed the capabilities of the home canning industry and solidified Mason’s place in history. (masonjars.com/history)

Mason jar wine glasses, a little bit country.
Wedding decor with firefly lighting and themed drink ware.
Rustic mason jar bird feeder.

Smells Like Home

Recently we remodeled the guest bathroom. It started out as quick fix to a leaking faucet, but as so often happens, the project expanded a bit in scope. Mission creep that ended up with new tile, vanity and bathroom fixtures. But I digress.

The new bathroom design took a decided turn towards modern farmhouse, but it did allow us to feature a couple of letterpress prints we had purchased years before on a vacation out west. Dutch Door printers had created an American states series, “Birds and Blooms of the 50 States”. Each print featured that state’s bird surrounded by the state flower. We purchased both a print of Virginia and of Nevada (my home state) but hadn’t displayed them before. The completed guest bath was perfect: lots of black, grey and white were the perfect backdrop for Virginia’s state bird—the cardinal, and dogwood blossoms.

Nevada was a bit harder to incorporate in our decor. How to feature the mountain bluebird and artemisia, known commonly as sagebrush? But when my niece sent me a cutting of sagebrush from Reno, we had everything we needed. When I opened the box, the aroma of desert sage was incredible.

There are other smells, scents that immediately remind me of home. The sharp aroma of pine trees or wood smoke draws me back to summer evenings and fire crackling in the wood stove in our cabin at Lake Tahoe. A newly mown lawn invariably reminds me of fields of alfalfa; my cousins and I are riding on a flatbed trailer wrestling with bales of hay. 

With all of their bittersweet memories, I suppose there is nothing to compare with the smell of morning coffee and the heavy presence of bacon frying, filling the house with the promise of fried eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast. My Dad always rose early, always made the coffee first, and loved his San Francisco sourdough bread. 

I suppose one could make an argument for fresh-from-the-oven apple pie, or even the sweet scent of chocolate chip cookies baking. The aromas of baking are captivating and stay with us for a lifetime. But for me they hardly compare with some of the pungent flavors of the desert. Even after years of living in another state, stepping off a plane after we had landed in Reno and walking across the tarmac to the main terminal (long before the modern passenger boarding bridge), the hot, dry wind always carried with it the smell of sagebrush. Home again. 

Summer Projects

As any parent knows, the summer vacation time between the end of school and the Labor Day weekend can be a challenge. For students who are experiencing a breath of freedom (no more teachers, no more books!) the summer weeks stretch out ahead in full, unscheduled promise. For parents however, each day brings the challenge of organizing activities, educational or entertaining, and making the most of each opportunity. But this year, summer camps and weekend outings, trips to the zoo or King’s Dominion, have all been changed. 

As grandparents of a tween (twelve going on twenty) this summer has brought even greater challenges than usual. Our vacation plans for Florida were canceled early in the aftermath of Covid-19 shutdowns. Still, we have been blessed with great weather and outdoor venues are beginning to return to a degree of normalcy, even if that means 50% occupancy and social distancing. 

Yet each day stands before us demanding answers, hours to be filled, adventures to be planned whether large or small.

And that is what brought us to painting rocks for the neighborhood. The past several weeks we have spotted painted rocks hidden among the tree trunks and leaves along our walking path. Well, we have smooth river rocks in the garden; a wide assortment of acrylic paints in my studio; plenty of time to add our own creations to the neighborhood collection. Let’s do this.

The best outcome of all? The project took a couple of days to complete. We had to first paint our rocks with white, then a background color. Then decide on patterns and designs. Our project culminated in a walk thru the woods to distribute our creations. It’s a small act of charity, the opportunity to serve others in a creative way; I’m hoping that these little seeds will slowly take root and flourish. 

Our summer vacation plans may have been changed in unexpected ways. But the endless possibilities still remain.